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Fun, sportsmanship are volunteers' goal in Jr. Tennis League

Laverne Stephens and Vivian Emily want to make certain kids have fun, learn sportsmanship and practice the tennis basics.

These volunteers' goals are being met this summer through the National Junior Tennis League. As many as 20 youths from 10-17 years of age are participating in the twice-a-week program sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association.

"This is the second year for the league," said Stephens of Spring Hill. "I'm coordinating the program for Hernando County while Vivian is the leader at Delta Woods Park."

NJTL is a program for novice players and provides the team concept while teaching basic skills and emphasizing sportsmanship. The league is one in a series of programs offered by the USTA to link local communities with the national organization and to prepare players to feed into other programs or be a followup to existing activities.

"We're starting some match play this Thursday with NJTL teams from Citrus County," said Emily. "They have about 60 players on four teams and we'll match them by ages and abilities.

"We de-emphasize winning; instead, sportsmanship is No. 1."

Stephens and Emily were introduced to tennis and volunteerism by teaching professional Judy Jeanette. Both from New York, Stephens and Emily now play league tennis and volunteer in youth tennis.

Last month, four girls from the NJTL program entered a tournament offered by the Pasco County Recreation Department. Natalie Lyman won the ages 10-13 division, Jennifer Ales was runner-up, and Candace Crawford was third. Heather Dovin, 14, lost in the 14-17 division final to Dennis Tichio, 17.

The Pasco recreation department is offering a single-elimination adult singles tournament July 15 at Veterans Park. For more details, call 861-3033.

Juniors at state: Top seed Jacquelyn Rosen of Tampa defeated No. 3 seed Marissa Catlin of Clearwater 6-1, 6-3 in the girls 18 Florida Closed Singles Championships last month. In the girls 14 competition, Saras Arasu of Tampa reached the semifinal round before losing 6-1, 6-3 to eventual winner Crystal Cleveland of Delray Beach.

Junior grand prix: Nearly 30 players participated in the second of four age-division singles tournaments in the Junior Grand Prix Challenger Series. Winners at Lakewood Country Club in St. Petersburg included Lauren Campbell (16), Carla Wrassmann (14), Kristin Foelgren (12) and Ilana Greenberg (10) in the girls divisions, and Jonathan Crooms (14), David Cosper (12) and Carson Crooms (10) in the boys. Nicky Ball won the sportsmanship award.

Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater hosts the third event this weekend. A compass draw format allows each player to play at least three pro-set matches. The series was developed by leaders in Pasco and Pinellas counties to offer more playing opportunities in non-sanctioned tournament competition. For more details, call 796-1136.

Adult league: Feather Sound Country Club clinched the women's 3.5 U.S. Tennis Association Adult League championship last month. In the round-robin playoff, Feather Sound beat East Lake Woodlands 4-1, St. Petersburg Tennis Center 4-1, and Countryside Country Club 5-0.

Feather Sound joins women's teams from Innisbrook (4.5), Bardmoor (5.0), Feather Sound (3.0) and McMullen (4.0) in this month's USTA Regional Championships in Naples.

K-Swiss league: Bill Graham is in a three-way tie for first place in the 3.5 singles of the K-Swiss Summer League, as is Maria Macapagal in the women's 4.5. Wendy Kall is tied for first in 4.0, and Cheryl Cravener is fifth in 4.0.

In K-Swiss doubles action, Innisbrook is third in 4.0 evening women, fourth in 4.0 morning women, and second in 3.0. Crescent Oaks is fourth in 3.5 women. Innisbrook is leading all others in the women's senior division, Crescent Oaks is third.

Innisbrook's men are runners-up in the 4.0 division and in fifth place in 4.5.

Coming up: Bardmoor Tennis and Fitness Club (391-2205) hosts a junior event next weekend, followed by one at Clearwater July 15-17. Cheval Country Club's (948-2282) adult tournament is this weekend and Innisbrook's is July 21-23.