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New faces, new challengers to gather at net this season

Hillsborough County high school tennis will showcase some new faces this season.

Gone are Brett Hall and Dennis Lankham of Chamberlain, winners of the 1993 state Class 5A No. 1 doubles title. Welcome Peter Ballotta of Jesuit, Robbie Williams of Bloomingdale and Tejas Patel of Berkeley Prep. They will be the big names in county ranks.

Not only are the top individuals changing, there are some new schools that will be challenging for the county title.

In the boys division, Bloomingdale is the team to beat. Coach Frank Hornbrook returns Williams, a junior who played No. 3 singles last year and never lost a match. He'll take over the No. 1 spot.

Williams will be joined by Jason Harris, No. 4 in singles last season, and newcomer Fabio Guimarest, an exchange student from Brazil.

Another team to watch is Jesuit. The Tigers tied for third in the state as a team. This year, Jesuit has moved up to 4A.

The Tigers lost only their No. 2 singles player, Robert Carmody. They return Class 3A No. 4 state singles champion Craig Arndt, who has moved up to the No. 2 spot behind Ballotta. Kwesi Grant-Acquah, a sophomore transfer from Wisconsin, will take over at No. 3.

Jesuit already is feeling some pressure. Ballotta will miss up to two weeks with an elbow injury.

Brandon also will figure in the puzzle with Eric Nielson at No. 1. But the Eagles have lost Justin McWhorter, a potential top-two starter who injured a leg in a car accident three weeks ago and is out for the season. Seniors Mike Galligan and John Gatto will pick up some of the slack.

Chamberlain is going through rebuilding pains as its top four players have graduated and its coach did not return.

The Chiefs did get Thomas Ollestad, Carrollwood's golf and tennis pro, to help pull the team together. He will have a lot of youth, with junior Nitash Patel and sophomores Brian Rao, Kyle Santi and Christopher Sutton leading..

On the girls side, Brandon's Sabrina Maharaj is the leading contender for a state title. The Times 1993 Player of the Year is closely followed by a newcomer, senior Alicia Kerhinsten of Bloomingdale.

Joining Maharaj is returning starter Lealyn Cabanisas, a junior. But Brandon was dealt a blow when last season's No. 2 player, Leah Alete, moved to Plant City.

Bloomingdale seems to be the team to beat with Kerhinsten at No. 1 and last year's No. 1, senior Heide Berhnfil, securing the No. 2 spot.

Chamberlain will be a threat again. Its record for the past five years is 61-4 under the tutelage of Alicia Pelaeze.

The Chiefs return last year's No. 2, Abby Jenkins, who will move up to the No. 1 spot. She will have four new faces behind her:Alexa Meyer, a junior exchange student from Germany; senior Sumi Rao, returning from a year's hiatus; senior Gaither transfer Jennifer Wyrick, and sophomore Anne Forbes.

Chamberlain will get competition from neighborhood rival Gaither. Cowboys coach Karen Haig returns three starters, including No. 1 player Nicole Brooks, a senior.Newcomers are Marija Kustura, a senior from Croatia, and sophomore Angela Cotney.