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Racquet Club readies for regionals

Regional playoffs in the U.S. Tennis Association Adult Tennis League are this weekend in Longboat Key. Winners advance to the USTA State Championships in Orlando next month.

Among the 10 Pinellas teams advancing to regional play is the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg's 4.5 men's team. The team members are relying on both strength of play and team compatibility to move on to state.

"Our team is close," said Tim Brady, who was a member of the 1986 national championship 4.5 team from St. Petersburg Tennis Center. "Our doubles teams are compatible in play and personalities and therefore communicate well on the court."

The nucleus of this year's team was on a team that five years ago was just one match short of a trip to the state championship. Those players _ Mitch Lee, Brad Tushaus, Jim Hartley Jr., Hernan Molina and John O'Brien _ are looking forward to making that extra trip this year.

"Because of all of our work schedules, we haven't too much extra to prepare for this weekend," said Jim Cohen, the squad's captain. "We all play on Tuesday evenings and we have all made an extra effort to play as much as possible."

The Racquet Club's first match is against a Naples team Friday afternoon. The team will then play Tampa on Saturday and Sarasota and Ft. Myers on Sunday.

Cohen and Hartley are the key singles players; Brady and Steve Riley generally play doubles together as do Brian Smith and Molina. Tushaus,

O'Brien and Ken Heretick share in a third doubles position. Lee is unable to attend and Jan Lagergren has returned to Sweden.

"Playing at regionals is different than playing in the local league," said Brady. "Along with the extra pressure, at regionals you don't know your opponents so you must focus just on your own match."

ZONAL TEAM PLAYERS: Lauren Scaglione of Seminole and Kyle Nelson of St. Petersburg have been selected to participate on Florida's team of 16-and-under players in the USTA Zone Team Championships.

Twenty boys and 20 girls are invited based on their state ranking to compete with teams from the southern, western and mid-Atlantic USTA sections in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Maria Cercone of Seminole is one of four of the Florida coaches for the teams. Competition is July 27 to Aug. 1 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Christa Grey of Seminole and Danny McCain of Largo, both ranked No. 8 in the 18s, will travel to San Rafael, Calif., and Columbia, S.C., respectively, for the USTA Intersectional Team Championships later this month.

DISTRICT MEETING: A USTA/Florida Section District 12 meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater. District 12 includes Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. For information, call 934-9604.

RALLY IN TAMPA: Nine National Junior Tennis League chapters in Pinellas have actively offered an introductory, recreational team tennis program for youths ages 8 to 18 this summer. In all, there are 65 active chapters in Florida, said Andy McFarland, Florida's coordinator of junior recreation. Twenty of those chapters are new this summer.

This weekend, 40 chapters are participating in an NJTL Rally in Tampa. Each chapter is represented by eight players who compete in a round-robin low-key competition in singles and doubles.

The Tampa rally is largest in the nation.