Cassie Pough, who plays No. 1 singles for Krop, deals with long days in an interesting way.
“I have school and then tennis practice, and then I go to bed by 8:30 or 9,” said Pough. “I wake up at 2 a.m., study until 5, and then I get ready for school.
“It’s probably kind of weird. I don’t know anyone who does that.”
She might be right. But Pough’s teammate, Danna Gandelman, who plays No. 2 singles for Krop, is such a perfectionist that she is often up until 1 a.m. studying.
Gandelman and Pough obviously have different study habits, but the results are the same — and they are awe-inspiring.
Pough, a senior who has committed to Louisville, has a 5.1 weighted grade-point average and had a nearly perfect score in the math portion of her SAT.
Gandelman, a junior who is interested in Ivy League schools, has a 5.8 weighted GPA.
“There is a lot of sacrifice involved,” Gandelman said of her and Pough’s dedication to academics and athletics. “I don’t think either one of us sleeps very much.”
You wouldn’t blame rival players who have to face Pough and Gandelman if they lost sleep.
Pough, competing against the best players, made it to the Class 4A state final in No. 1 singles last year, losing 6-3, 6-2 to Winter Park’s Joulia Likhanskaia, who returns this season to try to repeat.
Gandelman won a state individual title as a freshman and repeated the feat last year, both times while competing at No. 3 singles.
This Tuesday through Friday, Pough and Gandelman will hunt for individual as well as team titles at the state tournament in Altamonte Springs.
The Krop girls have won a state title in five of the past six years, including last season when the Lightning shared the Class 4A championship with Tampa Plant.
Coach Mike Kypriss, who helped build the Krop program, still attends all of the Lightning’s matches. But his daughter, Michelle Kypriss, 27, is now Krop’s first-year coach.
Mike Kypriss, 57, who wants to return to coaching at a private school or for the USTA when he retires from teaching in three years, said Pough is in the top three among all the girls he has coached.
The only players above her are Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, who played at Killian and then UCLA and now coaches the Miami Hurricanes, and Brittany Dubins, who played at Krop and now competes for UM.
“But Cassie is 6-foot-2 and lean and fast,” Kypriss said. “She has the chance to be very special if she continues to develop.”
Pough and Gandelman aren’t just Krop’s top two singles players. They are also the Lightning’s unbeaten doubles team, and they seem to be a perfect match.
Pough uses her size and power to her advantage, while the 5-6 Gandelman has great hands at the net. When Pough is serving hard and wide and Gandelman is cleaning up with volleys, the duo is tough to beat.
“I don’t have as good a touch as her at the net,” Pough said of Gandelman. “But with my height, it’s hard to pass me. As long as she places her serves in the right spot, we will do great.”
Greatness is easy to predict for both young ladies.
Pough is interested in a double major of biology and psychology and wants to go to medical school.
Gandelman’s dream is to major in biotechnology, and she is interested in cancer research.
“I love biology,” Gandelman said. “The more we discover, the more solutions we will find for diseases.”