Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Embracing FGCU Men's Tennis

Some of my most memorable years were reaped as a student athlete at the University of Hartford, in West Hartford, CT. A great part of that was playing for the fans that came out to our home games...and there were a few that followed the team if we were anywhere in the vicinity.

Well we have an institution of higher learning right here in town, with men's and women's tennis teams, but for some reason, those teams don't seem a part of the incredibly vibrant tennis community that we have here. I can only speculate about why that is...

We all know the institution is there…somewhere by Florida Gulf Coast Town Center, isn’t it? Surely we’ve seen some highlights of FGCU sporting events on nightly news, or read basketball or soccer results in the News-Press, right? But do we ever hear of or see anything about Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Tennis? Perhaps you have, but I haven’t.

Coach C.J. Weber &
Lance Lvovsky support Pro League
Even if you have, first-year FGCU Men’s Tennis Coach, C. J. (can’t be all bad, he uses initials- wink) Weber, plans to take FGCU Men’s Tennis to a new level in the Fort Myers/Naples area. He intends to make FGCU Tennis an integral part, rather than a peripheral piece, of the local tennis community. 

C.J. coaching Tianyu Bao & Michael Beiler 
In keeping with his objective, C. J. is inviting everyone in the tennis community to help his team (2-3) host conference foe, Kennesaw State (5-4)  this Thursday, March 1st at 7pm. The home match coincides with the team’s USTA Campus Kids’ Day event, and additional bleachers will be on hand. According to C. J., "My hope is to have 400-500 fans out there! It should be a great event for the community to come out to the courts.”

FGCU Men's Tennis 2011-2012
The match on Thursday is the first night match at home, and even the kids ought to be able to come to this one. There's one more night match on March 29th (Click here for complete Men's Tennis Schedule), but we can help FGCU move to 3-2 on their home courts with some vocal support. I intend to be there!

More Outreach
FGCU will continue its outreach to the community on Saturday, March 10th, from 9am – 12pm, when FGCU’s Men’s team will host a clinic, pro-am, and exhibition on their newly resurfaced courts. Of course the entire tennis community is invited. Click on flyer for more details

Meet C.J. Weber
Who is C. J. Weber? Well, perusal of his bio suggests that he has been a talented and successful college player, and perhaps an even better coach. Asked about his credentials, C. J. replied, “Most notably, I recently worked with #37 ATP touring professional, Kevin Anderson, in December 2011 before his tour in Australia, where he made the third round of the Australian Open. Prior to that, I’ve had touring experience at 3 of the 4 grand slams with recently retired ATP player, Ryler DeHeart. I’ve coached 7 total All-Americans in the last 6 years of college coaching.”  Of course there’s more, but it’s all there for you on the FGCU Men’s Tennis website.

The bottom line is that we have as active and thriving a tennis community as there is anywhere, and we have an up-and-coming tennis program that could use our support. I plan to do my share, and I'm hoping you will join me. See ya Thursday night at the FGCU tennis courts! Game, set, match...T A

Hank Jungle Memorial Jumps off at Cypress Lake

Court Sponsor thank you
As inaugural events go, it is hard to imagine one being any more successful than the Inaugural Hank Jungle Memorial Tennis Event held this past weekend (Feb. 25 – 26) at Cypress Lake Country Club. Terry See, director of tennis at Cypress Lake and an icon of Fort Myers tennis in his own right, organized the event for another Fort Myers tennis icon and legend, Hank Jungle. 

Terry See get the ball bouncing
The weekend activities began on Saturday morning with a ceremony and court dedication to honor Hank, by all accounts as unique and dynamic a tennis professional as there ever was in the area or anywhere for that matter. Friends, fans, and students flocked to the tennis complex at Cypress Lake from as far away as Maine to pay tribute to local legend.

Cypress Lake GM Ed Rodgers in foreground
The tennis community certainly owes Cypress Lake’s Board and General Manager, Ed Rodgers (who mingled with the crowd all day Saturday), a hearty note of thanks for fast-tracking the conversion of the Hank Jungle Memorial Court from hard to clay. Additional gratitude must be expressed to the court sponsors who helped make it happen with their generosity.   
Mike Curran pays respects to his teacher

Butch Shorack singing Hank's praises
So who was Hank Jungle? Well Butch Shorack asked in his tribute to Hank, “How can you talk about Hank in five minutes?” And after listening to the many stories of Hank, as told by those who knew him well, there’s no way that I can do justice to the man and his legacy here. I will, however, say that if you run across a highly skilled tennis player who has been in the Fort Myers area for a decade or more, chances are he or she took lessons from Hank at some point.  
Bob Christie down from Maine

Among many other things, Hank was the former owner of Park Meadow Tennis Center, and co-founder of the Florida Open, the only national level junior event held in our area. How unique was the man? Here’s a story that might make you wonder: I was playing in the Pro Am on Sunday morning, when, pointing to the “memorial rock” and chuckling, one of his former students told me the following story:

“That rock is right next to the tree that Hank lit on fire. Yeah, I was just a kid and we’re out on the court, and Hank is running some drills with us, when I noticed smoke coming from courtside. I look over and it’s a little tree that Hank apparently threw his cigarette butt into. I called out to him to let him know, and he just told us to keep on drilling while he poured some of his beer on the tree to try to put out the fire.”

Patsy Jungle strikes first ball on memorial court
Now I’m sure that most adults reading this would express various degrees of horror at that story, and there may have been some embellishing there, but embellishment or no, that was Hank; he did what he did as only he could do it, and gave a piece of himself to the many who flowed into his orbit. Patsy Jungle, his widow and a character in her own right, was clearly thrilled with the weekend’s proceedings. 
Patsy & Mark Nunally

Patsy played in one of the Mixed Doubles flights with Mark Nunally and seemed to have a tremendous time being on court and mingling with the many who loved her mate.

The Events
Tom Visilou & Jim DiDonna
Hank was about tennis, and so there was plenty of tennis to be had at Cypress Lake this weekend. A competitive Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles events were held on Saturday, a Pro-Am was played on Sunday morning, and a number of local area pros and talented juniors played some exhibition sets.

Jemileth Aguilar & Chandler Novoa
Kathy Shimp & Karen Orlando
The Ladies
Seven teams in two flights vied for the 4.5 Women’s Division, and six teams in two flights battled for the 3.5 Women’s Division. In the 4.5 Women’s, youth carried the day, as Chandler Novoa and Jemileth Aguilar, who together 

did not equal the age of any one of their competitors, won their flight convincingly. Karen Orlando and Kathy Shimp of Park Meadow claimed the other flight 4.5 Women’s flight, and were very game in their finals loss to the youthful champions. Chandler and Jemileth are down in history as winners of the very first event of the Inaugural Hank Jungle Memorial. 

Grace McGee & Tracy DiBiase
In the Women’s 3.5 Tracy DiBiase and Grace McGee playing out of Park Meadow took on Barbara Parsons and Carol Greene in the final after each team had won its flight. In one of the more closely contested matches, Tracy and Grace took the 3.5 Title.  
Barbara Parsons & Carol Greene

The Gentlemen
Butch Shorack & Brian Hammermeister
The men had three teams each in two flights in the 3.5 Division, and eight teams in two flights in the 4.5 Division. In the 3.5s, Butch Shorack and Brian Hammermeister claimed their flight and met Ed Ledwith and John Slattery, who played because flight winners Ed Bonkowski and Jerry Arzy couldn't play. Ed and John were second by virtue of head-to-head tiebreak in the most closely contested flight of the entire event.

Butch and Brian had to pull out a tiebreak in their flight to reach the final, but once there, they rolled over Ed and John. Guess they don’t call Brian “Da Hamma” for nothing. Butch also played in the Pro-Am on Sunday morning, but he had me for a partner, so his winning ended on Saturday.

T. A. & Glenn Kouns
In the 4.5 Men’s, Terry was kind to me and partner Glenn Kouns, former director of tennis as Cypress Lake.  Actually, as I examine the draws, I think Terry made a “senior citizens” flight and a “not quite there yet” flight. Yours truly rode Glenn to the final, where we met the ultimate gentleman in Marius Espeleta and his possessed partner, Ed Bolter.  

Marius Espeleta & Ed Bolter
Marius and Ed had already won one tiebreak to reach the final, and battled their way into a tiebreak with us as well, despite having fallen behind early, 0-3. In the end, winning back-to-back breakers was just too much to ask, and Glenn and I prevailed in the breaker.

Terry chats with Tracy DiBiase & Ken Monahan

Mixed Doubles
In Mixed Doubles, six teams in two flights competed, and youth again spoke loudest as teenaged Women’s 4.5 Champion Chandler Novoa teamed with Javier Rebolledo, another high octane teen, to claim the Championship. Tracy DiBiase and dad Ken Monahan did not lie down for the champs, but couldn’t overcome the power advantage wielded by Chandler and Javier.  

Day 2 
Lucky pros await their amateur
The Pro-Am
Sunday morning featured three flights with a total of twelve local amateurs teamed with twelve tennis professionals and top junior players in a Pro-Am. The three amateur flight winners were presented awards.

Pros prepare for Pro-Am
Pros in the top flight included Jonas Kushner, Fred Kangwa, Eddie Neese, and Ryan Sherry. They played with Steve Harrison, Duke, Ed Bolter, and Marius Espeleta respectively. Ed Bolter and Eddie edged Steve Harrison and Jonas by two games, despite losing a tiebreak to them in their first match.

Parker bombs serve while Tommy watches
Pros/junior phenoms in the middle flight included Elliot DeBolt, Parker Cuevas-Woodall, Cap Owens, and me. Our amateurs were Kathy Shimp, Tommy Carlisle, Chandler Novoa, and Butch Shorack respectively. There was a three-way tie for first, as the youngsters took turns dispatching Butch and me (sorry Butch).

Patsy flips coin at Terry's behest
Terry declared that one-point tiebreakers were in order, and Patsy had the honor of the coin toss. Elliot and Kathy took the court first against Cap and Chandler, and Elliot elected to serve after winning the toss: “tails never fails,” he said. If only that were true of his serve as well. A double fault ended that tiebreak and it appeared as though Chandler was on her way to a triple crown.

For all the marbles in Pro Am
Parker & Tommy v. Cap & Chandler
Tails again won the toss and Cap elected to serve. Given how he had just won the last tiebreak, he showed more courage than I might have in those circumstances. In any event, he got the first serve in and a cross-court exchange between Cap and Parker ensued. It ended the way many of Parker’s points ended that morning: with a blistering, untouchable forehand. Point, set, match: Parker & Tommy!

The third and final Pro-Am group featured pros Rob Vinal, Jeff Timmer, Glenn Kouns and Mark Nunally and amateurs Brian Hammermeister, Elizabeth Cossu, Jim DiDonna, and John Cossu. Brian and Rob had a tussle with John and Mark, but got the win, and took the honors for the third Pro-Am group.

Hearing Hank Stories
You would think that that was more than enough tennis for everyone, but no. Although the crowd had thinned considerably, there were still hardcore tennis junkies hanging around for the pro exhibition. I’m pretty sure that by the time the six courts of doubles exhibitions were completed, all involved had had their fill, along with a smashing good time!

Summing it Up
Patsy touched by the moment
If Hank could have seen the tribute he was paid this weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would wear a smile on his face for a long time. In his stead, Patsy wore an engaging smile, and shared some laughter with us in his honor. I know she was gratified and she intimated as much when she said, “Hank used to say, 'I teach a world class stroke,' and I think the whole thing was world class. Terry, and Ed Rodgers with his help and insight, really made it happen. I think everyone enjoyed it, and I’ve heard nothing but good things. Hank always wanted to touch people and I think it was mission accomplished with the event!

Terry See, Master of Ceremonies
Terry See also expressed his gratitude for all the support he received from management at Cypress Lake and from his fellow pros: “I hope the Board feels good about fast-tracking the new court after witnessing the great turnout we had this weekend. I really appreciate the support of my tennis committee and all of the pros and the people who participated. It couldn’t have happened without them.”  

Thanks to all who made it possible, and we’ll see you for the Second Annual next year! Game, set, match…T A

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pro League at Lexington: A Smash Hit!

Standing room only
It just does not get any better than this folks…unless you’re talking ATP, WTA action.  Oh, and I don’t mean on my court either; it definitely gets a lot better than that…as evidenced by what was happening next to me on Court 1 this past Pro League at Lexington Country Club.

Lexington Earns "Host of the Year" 
Lexington CC: Host of the year
But before I get into that, let me sing the praises of Joe Rubin, his staff, and the Tennis Committee at Lexington Country Club for doing the best hosting job of the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League that I have experienced in the few years (almost 6) I have been here.

Good luck with parking!
There's one spot way down there
The scene was unbelievable when I got there. Cars lined the streets on both sides, not a space was available in the parking lot, and almost as many people thronged the courts as prowled the Greek Festival the other night…ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration…but it was clearly the most people I have seen at a Pro League event. I’m not sure if I would be overstating by guessing 800 or more. 

Steve & Christie relaxing in the aftermath
Steph & Fin hanging in "The Lounge"

But it wasn’t just the huge gallery, or the fact that Lexington staff/volunteers were directing parking that made Lexington’s hosting par excellence. 
What capped it off was the area adjacent to the courts that was set up with chairs and cloth-covered tables, and which served as an open-air cafeteria of sorts. Those who took advantage of the event-sized grill, which produced beckoning aromas, could partake of the savory offerings in comfort. Nice work Lexington!   

The On-Court Happenings 
Toni Halski in foreground
Fred gets airborne; Rick awaits
Contrary to most of the season and what we’ve grown used to, most of the matches lacked competitive drama on the scoreboard. Only one match in the 4pm session, league-leading Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) versus Johnny Malloy’s (JM), went to the typically ubiquitous third-set super-tiebreak. However, those fortunate enough to have stayed through the end of the 5:30pm-matches were treated to one of the finer displays of the day, and perhaps the season. 

AutoDrive Sweeps Harborside Dental 
Birthday boy Jared Kalpin
The Harborside Dental (HD) versus AutoDrive (AD) matchup was an important one, because AD trailed HD  (my team) by two points with only one match left to play (Colonial on Friday, March 9th) to determine who would play BRA for League honors in the Playoffs. Well, AD came out as though they really wanted the opportunity, and delivered a crushing blow to my team, taking all five matches. Both line-ups had been shuffled a bit, and AD outshuffled and outplayed us.  

Jeremy & T A before the crying started
Fran & Christie do battle
I didn’t provide much to help my partner in our match, missing two easy shots that led to 5-6 in the first, and for the second time this season I failed to score a point for our team. Even the ever-reliable Christie Bradley, who always gets at least one point for us, failed to score. We managed to scratch out two points thanks to Toni Halski and Dan Moenning on Court 4, and Mike Curran and Sergio Rebolledo on Court 1. 

Happy Birthday Jared: Fabulous Foursome in Climax 
Denny & Jared 
Speaking of Mike and Sergio, they could get another crack at Denny Rager and Jared Kalpin in the playoffs, but I’m not sure that they would want one. Mike and Serg lost another nail-biting third-set super-tiebreak to Denny and Jared, making it the second consecutive match they’ve lost that way…after having match points!

Mike & Sergio
In Friday’s match, the climax of the night, played by as skilled a foursome as there is in our League, you couldn’t have asked for anything more: Incredible shot-making, crowd erupting, tension escalating, and drama descending with the darkness over the entire kit and caboodle. What a finish!

Now, I’m not gonna blame it on the Mike’s friendship with Jared or anything (it was Jared’s birthday on Friday), but Mike and Serg were up 9-6 in the super-tiebreak, needing one more point to get the “W.” On one of those match points, my hands were poised to clap for our team’s victory as Mike smacked a high forehand volley crosscourt…

Jared is the "good hands" poster boy
Uh, I musta forgotten that Jared plays for the “Allstate” team, cuz that boy has some good hands on him! Jared reflexed a sweet half-volley pick-up and eventually won the point!  Da Dawg barked, racquet smashed, and the writing was on the wall. Happy birthday Jared! Mike and Serg didn’t win another point, but the spectators and players who had stayed to soak up the scintillating entertainment that night all were winners.

Pro League Big Picture
FGCU Men's Coach C.J  Weber in shades
So what does this all mean in the Pro League big picture? Well, in one fell swoop, we (HD)went from second to fourth, AD climbed into second, and JM secured third. AD and JM face each other in the final regular-season match of the season, and with a major upset, JM could end up playing BRA for the top spot. Considering that JM has trailed the pack all season, to be where they are now with a chance to play in the title match is an accomplishment.

AD Captain: Denny Rager
Seeing that we have yet to beat BRA, our next and final pre-playoff opponent, chances are that BRA and AD will meet for League bragging rights for the 2011-2012 Season. We will likely face off against JM in the avoidance match, i.e., avoiding the League cellar.  I think I know how the Philadelphia Eagles feel. Heck, on draft day, I would have bet that we were the team to beat. Not! We, Team HD, are reduced to the refrain of failure: Wait till next year! But there's still a chance, so...

Undefeated Manuel & Tyler 
There is still something for everyone to play for at Colonial Country Club on March 9th: Manuel and Tyler on Court 1 for Team BRA will battle Mike and Serg to retain their unblemished season (currently 8-0), I have yet to beat Luke and Frank at Second Doubles, and I’ve got to get the bitter taste of that last match outta my mouth! And of course, JM is trying to upset AD to make the “Title Match.” There are lots of storylines in the making at Colonial next week.

Scores from Lexington
Boston Retirement Advisors v. Johnny Malloy’s (JM won 3 of 5)
First Doubles
Manuel serves it up; Ty waits to poach
Manuel Encalada & Tyler Owens of BRA down Scott Harrington & Shawn Hedrick 6-0, 6-2

Second Doubles
Patrick and Jeff
Patrick Kangwa & Jeff Diggs of JM beat Luke Andreae & Frank Fourgeau 6-1, 0-6, 10-8

Third Doubles
Anthony & Todd
Anthony Hatori & Todd Wise of JM downed Fred Hindle & Rick Calton 6-2, 6-4

Fourth Doubles
Steve Shortridge & Armor Persons of JM defeat Dave Dooley and Joe Rubin (sub) 6-1, 6-1

Mixed Doubles
Katman & Erica
Jim Katterfield & Erica Cossairt (BRA) beat Jorge Magalhaes & Kerry Kendrick 6-0, 6-1

AutoDrive v. Harborside Dental 
(AD won every match)

First Doubles
Jared & Denny again! Can't wait for my b'day
Denny Rager & Jared Kalpin edge Mike Curran & Sergio Rebolledo 6-7, 7-6, 11-9

Second Doubles
Kevin & Elliott deliver for AD
Elliott DeBolt & Kevin Kearns down T. A. Niles & Jeremy Orme 7-5, 6-2

Third Doubles
John & Fish warm up
John Jerome & Tom Fisher (sub) defeat Mike Lawver & Mark Drons 7-5, 6-3

Fourth Doubles
Larry & Terry on the comeback trail
Larry Gagnon & Terry See outlast Toni Halski & Dan Moenning 5-7, 6-3, 10-7

Mixed Doubles
Rob Vinal & Belinda Dufrene (sub) beat Fran Coryell & Christie Bradley 6-3, 6-1

Season Point Totals



As you already know, you, the spectators, make it happen, so we look forward to another great turnout at Colonial! Game, set, match...T A