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.
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
Tamara Bustard, Sr., Ridgewood
Olivia Williams, Jr., Nature Coast
Aleesa Williamson, Sr., Ridgewood
Amber Fahrner, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch
Jordyn Garcia, So., River Ridge
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