Spring sports seem to have the quickest seasons of all of the high school activities. When you are playing two or more times a week, it doesn’t take long for a season to end.
It was a classic case of “where did the time go?” when a look at the calendar made me realize that the Bartow High School tennis teams would be playing their final home matches last Thursday. From this point, all action is on unfriendly surroundings, so it was time to get to know the squad a little better.
As luck would have it, both the girls and boys teams would be in action, facing different opponents. The girls would meet up with Lake Wales before playing in this week’s Polk County Tournament. The boys team would face off against McKeel in their final matches before district play. The Polk County tournament is an optional participation event and Bartow’s team has chosen to sit it out.
The girls team is coached by Angela Reynolds, who joined the Bartow campus facility last year and is in her first year as coach. The response to tryouts was very good as there are 15 girls on the Bartow roster, including a German exchange student.
Bartow’s depth was obvious when compared to the size of their opponent. Fewer than 10 girls were wearing Lake Wales uniforms, but the play was very exciting across the four courts in action. Bartow managed to get the win with four singles wins and sweeping the two doubles matches.
This year’s team featured four seniors, who were honored at the conclusion of their afternoon matches. Alex Hollen, who played in the number one position in both singles and doubles, was joined by Phillipe Coicou, Rose Conner and Ashley O’Bryon.
With the victory, Bartow improved to 9-5 on the season with the county tournament providing the final test before district play. In addition to the senior members, the 2013 BHS tennis team included juniors Annika Jendretzki (from Germany), Maggie Morrison and BHS soccer standout Sarah (Benny) Valenti. A strong core of sophomores fought hard for playing time among the juniors and seniors. The group included Linda Guan, Samantha Kunin, McKenzie Newton, Joanna Sands, Margaret Sands and McKenzie Newton Kunin, Joanna Sands and Guan played in positions three, four and five (respectively) in the Lake Wales match. Joanna and Margaret Sands are twins and have been paired in doubles throughout the year. A pair of freshman round out the team with Kriyana Reddy and Thizar Zaw pushing for playing time. Zaw was slotted as number two singles in the final match.
While the girls teams were occupying the first set of courts, the back courts were occupied by the Bartow boys team. All members of the team attend either International Baccalaureate or Summerlin Academy and probably can claim the highest grade point average of any Bartow High School group athletic team. The academic success is nearly equaled by the on-court results of the year as the team can claim a 9-2 record with two cancelled matches due to weather or other circumstances beyond the team’s control.
On this day, the team was preparing to face an opponent of which little was known. McKeel Academy would serve as the final match before district play got underway in early April. Once again, the Bartow team clearly had the advantage in size, as McKeel had six players appear for the match. Bartow’s team includes twice that many, and coach Michael Brennan utilized nine of his players in the competition, allowing more players to get valuable competition court time that resulted in a Bartow win.
Only two seniors will be departing the program after the district play. Eugene Kim and Mausam Trivedi are members of the class of 2013. Juniors include No. 1 Dhaval Jivanji, No. 2 Youlei Li and doubles player Hunter Ryan. Kevin Craig, who plays at No. 3 singles, and No. 4 singles player Jay Khatri lead a strong group of sophomores that includes Zachary Sandoval, Matthew Murphy and Sam Knight. Aaron Sandoval, who played No. 5 singles against McKeel, is the lone freshman and joins older brother Zachary on the team.
This year, Coach Brennan has been assisted by team manager Gina DiGioia and the sophomore has provided valuable help throughout the course of the year.