Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas: Tennis season preview

In nine seasons as St. Petersburg Catholic's girls coach, Brett Hayman has never assembled a squad as talented as this season's. The Barons return every starter from a team that placed fourth at the 2A state tournament, the best of any county team. Add to the mix incoming freshman Julia Jones, who will challenge last year's top player Alyssa Bellini at No. 1 singles.

"We have everybody back with another year of experience," Hayman said. "I think it's going to be a really interesting, fun year."

Jones is ranked No. 3 in the state in the 14 and under age group by the USTA and has tremendous potential according to Hayman.

"She has no weaknesses, only strengths across the board," he said. "Her serve is textbook. All of her strokes are beautiful."

Behind Bellini and Jones, Jerica Coley, the county's leading scorer in basketball, and Danielle Nickerson, a standout setter on the volleyball team, will battle for the No. 3 singles spot. Molly Smith, another multi-sport athlete, takes over at No. 5 after winning a state title at No. 4 singles last year. In two seasons, Smith is undefeated in regular-season singles. Except for Jones, the top players are all juniors.

Hayman said there is no denying the team's terrific talent: "We have a two-year window where we legitimately have a good chance to win a state championship or at least contend for it."

Boys players to watch
Michael Beiler, Dunedin, Soph. Talented transfer was district 3A-7 runner-up playing for Tarpon Springs last season.
Luke Burton, St. Pete Cath., Soph. Injured for part of last season, Burton rocketed from No. 5 to the Barons' top singles spot.
Ed Corty, St. Petersburg, Soph. Spent part of the year at No. 1 singles for region finalist Green Devils.
Ryan Frazier, Osceola, Senior Won a district title last season and qualified for state tournament in singles and doubles.
Dan Lang, Seminole, Junior Seminole's No. 1 has made significant improvement according to Warhawks coach Craig Corry.
Robby Nichols, Lakewood, Senior Top contender for a district title in 3A-8
Alex Saltiel, Shorecrest, 8th grade Stuck behind Betsirakis in the Chargers lineup but could play No. 1 for most county teams.
Ricky Symanski, CCC, Sophomore Will challenge Betsarakis for the A-10 district title.

Last year was a banner season for the Shorecrest boys. For the first time, the Chargers advanced as a team to the state tournament. Freshman Garrett Betsarakis exploded onto the scene to finish undefeated through the region tournament and earn our player of the year award. A fifth-place finish in the finals, however, had the Chargers feeling a bit empty after their monumental season.

"A majority of our players don't have a lot of tournament experience," Betsarakis said. "I don't know if that was a factor at states. I think this year they have more of a feel for what it's like. I think we'll be a little better prepared this year."

Betsarakis, ranked No. 10 in the state in the 16 and under age group, is a regular on the USTA junior tournament circuit and has been for years. So is Alex Salteil, the No. 2 singles player. Beyond the top two, however, the Chargers are green. Talented but untested. Betsarakis hopes last year's tourney run can pay dividends this season.

"All of our guys really worked hard over the summer and they've been improving," he said. "I think they got a little inspired from going to states last year and they want to go back."

Girls players to watch
Morgan Basil, Shorecrest, Junior A Times first team all county performer the past two seasons.
Emily Dvorak, St. Petersburg, Sophomore Dvorak and Agatha Ambrozy are perhaps the best 1-2 singles punch in the county.
Julianne Gruber, Calvary Christian, Soph. Has the talent to take Calvary deep into the playoffs.
Lindsay Hodgdon, Gibbs, Junior Led Gladiators to their first district title (3A-8) and earned a berth in the state tournament.
Kara Kucin, Clearwater Central Catholic, Sr. Marshall commit has won at least one match at state tournament past two seasons.
Amy Lowther, Seminole, Freshman One of several highly-skilled freshmen entering the ranks.
Laura Ospina, East Lake, Sophomore Earned the top singles spot as a freshman and led team to state finals last year.
Shaunte Southern, Palm Harbor U., Soph. With a year's experience, Southern should challenge for a district title.

Pinellas: Tennis season preview 02/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 6:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.