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All-North Suncoast girls tennis

River Ridge’s Nicola Wellman has not allowed physical ailments to keep her from achieving success on the court.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

River Ridge’s Nicola Wellman has not allowed physical ailments to keep her from achieving success on the court.

Player of the year Nicola Wellman, So., River Ridge

Sidelined by a mysterious back ailment for part of 2008, Wellman returned this spring with a vengeance, not to mention velocity. Unbeaten locally, she didn't surrender a set to a North Suncoast foe, and won the Class 3A, District 5 title at No. 1 singles. At the individual 3A singles tournament, she split a pair of matches, falling to eventual champ Bianca Sanon of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

Most impressive accomplishment: Wellman points to the three-set semifinals victory she and classmate Tijana Subotic earned at the 3A individual doubles tournament. In the second of three matches the pair played that day, Wellman and Subotic rallied from a 5-1 third-set deficit for a 7-5, 6-7, 7-5 triumph over Boca Raton's No. 2-seeded Alexandra Langmo and Olivia Poole. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Knights pair lost to the No. 1-seeded team in the final shortly thereafter. "We were both pretty wiped," Wellman said.

Future plans: Wellman wants to play college tennis, where her dad spent a good chunk of his professional life. Brent Wellman, a former men's college basketball assistant at several stops, including Central Florida, also has coached tennis programs at UCF, Hillsborough Community College and PHCC. He's currently sports director at Quail Ridge Country Club in Spring Hill.

Did you know? The back problem was hardly Wellman's first bout with physical adversity. At age 11, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that can cause ulcers in the colon and severe stomachaches. She took roughly two full years off from training and was hospitalized for up to 21/2 weeks at one point. "It was a long, dark hole for us," said Wellman's mom, Belinda.

First team

Rachel Conter, Sr., Nature Coast: Led Sharks to first team state tourney berth

Sydney Simpson, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Class 2A, District 6 champ at No. 1 singles

Hannah Still, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Class 2A, District 6 champ at No. 2 singles

Tijana Subotic, So., River Ridge: Could have been No. 1 for any other local team

Sarah Vande Berg, Fr., Zephyrhills: Took Simpson to three sets in district final

Second team

Tamara Bustard, Sr., Ridgewood

Olivia Williams, Jr., Nature Coast

Aleesa Williamson, Sr., Ridgewood

Amber Fahrner, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch

Jordyn Garcia, So., River Ridge

Honorable mention

Central: Brittney Wert

Gulf: Demi Durkin, Miranda Gillespie, Stephanie Little

Land O'Lakes: Daniella Galindo

Nature Coast: Kaitlyn Bugden, Delanie McCabe, Mallorie Pickersgill

Mitchell: Shelby Wright

Pasco: Allison Tisdale

Ridgewood: Daylyn Williamson

Zephyrhills: Stacy Trovillion

Coach of the Year

Louise Downey, Nature Coast

A volunteer coach who built Nature Coast's program from scratch, Downey led the Sharks to their first team appearance at the Class 2A state tournament.

Joey Knight, Times staff writer

All-North Suncoast girls tennis 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 8:32pm]

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