Tennis | Season preview

Tennis preview: Loaded Pine Crest girls’ team could face a new obstacle

 
 
Pine Crest freshman Stephanie Taylor is No. 33 in the state in the girls’ 16s, and reached the state semifinals last season in singles and doubles.
Pine Crest freshman Stephanie Taylor is No. 33 in the state in the girls’ 16s, and reached the state semifinals last season in singles and doubles.
Charles Trainor Jr / Miami Herald Staff

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Boys’ season outlooks

AMERICAN HERITAGE: Coach: Tobias Croke (11th year); Last year: 8-3, third at state; Top players: German Ayubi (sr.); Zachary Ebenfeld (so.) Jordan Skalet (fr.); Noteworthy: Five of the team’s top six players are sophomores or younger. Ayubi, the lone senior, features a big serve.

ARCHBISHOP McCARTHY: Coach: Marianne VonFeldt; Last year: 7-6-1; Top players: Dimitri Salzmann (jr.); Andrew Puglisi (so.); Chris Wheeler Sabatino (sr.); Noteworthy: Salzmann made it to the state semifinals as an individual last season, Puglisi has improved, and three freshmen have arrived to push the veterans. The coach said this is the school’s best tennis team ever.

CALVARY CHRISTIAN: Coach: Robert Ostrander; Last year: 8-5; Top players: Michael Mendez (8th grade); Keegan O’Leary; Caleb Keller (7th grade); Nicco Gourhy (7th grade); Noteworthy: Mendez won five summer tournaments, and O’Leary got stronger, gaining 20 pounds.

CARDINAL GIBBONS: Coach: Susan Armeli (1st year); Last year: lost in districts; Top players: Jeremy Soong (fr.); Dom Northecide (sr.); Chris Ernewein (jr.); Noteworthy: Also watch for freshman Jabari Cole, sophomore James Wich and junior Taylor Gagne.

COOPER CITY: Coach: Sherry White; Last year: third in the district; Top players: Andrew Morales (jr.); Harrison Riggott (so.); Noteworthy: Team is lacking in depth.

CORAL GLADES: Coach: Joe George (1st year); Last year: lost in districts; Top players: Yagna Patel (jr.); Michael Mann (sr.); Sarang Patel (so.); Noteworthy: Eight players return, including the Patel brothers.

CYPRESS BAY: Coach: Vincent Grossi (19th year); Last year; 14-0, won 4A state title; Top players: Giannlucca Massa (sr.); Christopher Morin (jr.); Andrew Heller (so.); Noteworthy: Ryan Smith graduated and signed with Vanderbilt. The rest of the players from the state-title team are back, including Massa, who is a UNC-Wilmington recruit.

DOUGLAS: Coach: Bob Bryant (21st season overall, 4th year here); Last year: 11-2, regional finalist; Top players: Cody Flanzer (sr.); Royce Marnell (so.); Aaron Jablon (sr.); Noteworthy: Flanzer was a state semifinalist in singles and doubles. Coach said Douglas will be in a tougher district this year.

ELY: Coach: Concepcion Ledesma (8th year). Last year: 3-5; Top players: Cameron Ogbourne (sr.); Taweh Browne (so.); Kim Lam (sr.); Tyler McLemore (sr.); Noteworthy: Among the team’s younger players are sophomore Sebastian Vascones and freshmen Jafet Almendares and Manuel Correa.

MONARCH: Coach: Greg Kennedy; Last year: 3-10; Top players: Caio Henriques (so.); Tyler Kruger (so.); Jake Clement (sr.); Noteworthy: The top three singles players combined for an 11-28 record last season.

NORTH BROWARD PREP: Coach: Jaro Pivarci (6th year); Last year: 5-5; Top players: Evan Dean (7th grade); Guliano Rengifo (8th grade); Alexander Gomez (10th grade); Noteworthy: The top four players are in 10th grade or younger, and Dean is ranked among the state’s best 30 players in his age group.

NOVA: Coach: John Bua (2nd year); Last year: 4-8; Top players: Luiz Nunez (sr.); Jordan Green (fr.); Jason Green (fr.); Noteworthy: Three of the team’s top four players are freshmen.

PINE CREST: Coach: Farhan Malik (6th year); Last year: 8-2-1; Top players: Sam Dern (so.); Elliot Seckler (so.); Ned Shashoua (sr.); Noteworthy: Sophomores Dern, Seckler and Ismail Ercan and eighth-grader Louis Siegler offer hope for the future.

SHERIDAN HILLS CHRISTIAN: Coach: Eric Poirot (1st year); Last year: NA; Top players: Sebastian Stam (8th grade); Jordan Hernandez (so.); Hongru Li (sr.); Noteworthy: Stam is young but is the most experienced player on the team.

SOUTH PLANTATION: Coach: Walter Jones; Last year: 3-8-1; Top players: Hunter Sawyer (jr.); Kevin Coffman (so.); Michael Crabbe (so.); Noteworthy: Four starters return.

TARAVELLA: Coach: Dawn Hall; Last year: 11-5; Top players: Yan Gapeev (jr.); Ryan Moed (sr.); Alex Restrepo (sr.); Noteworthy: Entire team returns except for No. 2 singles player.

Girls’ season outlooks

AMERICAN HERITAGE: Coach: Tobias Croke (11th year); Last year: 8-3, second at regionals; Top players: Chiara Goodman (sr.); Ronia Dolabany (fr.); Susana Chinchilla (jr.); Noteworthy: In addition to the top three, sophomore Aleksi Gottlieb has a power game, and seventh-grader Caroline Buechele could emerge.

ARCHBISHOP McCARTHY: Coach: Marianne VonFeldt; Last year: 8-6; Top players: Kelsey Berman (jr.); Raquel Gil (jr.); Anto Castillo (jr.); Noteworthy: Five of the team’s top six players are seniors.

CALVARY CHRISTIAN: Coach: Lisa Pitts (3rd year); Last year: 8-4; Top players: Caitlyn Kahn (8th grade); Kristi Pitts (sr.); Mackenzie Moody (sr.); Noteworthy: This year’s team is mostly comprised of beginners.

CARDINAL GIBBONS: Coach: Susan Armeli (1st year); Last year: lost in districts; Top players: Shelby Groeneveld (so.); Carly Landi (jr.); Loretta Norton (so.); Noteworthy: Freshmen Gabriela Harmon and Carly VanSciver should be among the team’s top five.

COOPER CITY: Coach: Sherry White; Last year: Lost in districts; Top players: Erika Martinez (sr.); Haley Fiers (sr.); Cayla Yellen (fr.); Noteworthy: Team is lacking in depth.

CORAL GLADES: Coach: Joe George (1st year); Last year: lost in districts; Top players: Madieh Sehr (so.); Jamie Katz (jr.); Gabriella Hoofat (sr.); Five players return.

DOUGLAS: Coach: Bob Bryant (21st season overall, 4th year here); Last year: 12-2, regional finalist. Top players: Kellyn Abbanat (jr.); Kaela Bynoe (jr.); Kasia Kasperski (sr.); Noteworthy: Abbanat and Bynoe combined to win a state doubles title last season. Abbanat was also a state semifinalist in singles.

MONARCH: Coach: Greg Kennedy; Last year: 10-3; Top players: Kendra Burch (sr.); Jennifer Nguyen (jr.); Valeria Mantilla (so.); Noteworthy: Nguyen went 13-0 at No. 2 singles last season.

NOVA: Coach: John Bua (2nd year); Last year: 3-10; Top players: Coral Navarre (so.); Samantha Seidman (sr.); Emily Kurnia (sr.); Noteworthy: Navarre missed last season due to injury but has returned as the team’s top singles player.

PINE CREST: Coach: Brett Kurtz (6th year); Last year: 10-0, third at state; Top players: Stephanie Taylor (fr.); Kaely Malik (jr.); Ines de Bracamonte (jr.); Noteworthy: Taylor, ranked No. 33 at state in her age group, leads a team that should challenge for a state title.

SHERIDAN HILLS CHRISTIAN: Coach: Eric Poirot (1st year); Last year: No team; Top players: Paula Andrade (fr.); Bethanne Bialy (fr.); Audrice Louis (fr.); Noteworthy: The top four players on this re-born team are freshmen.

SOUTH PLANTATION: Coach: Walter Jones; Last year: 4-8; Top players: Grace Winslow (sr.); Allison Abad (sr.); Caitlyn Pleasants (jr.); Noteworthy: Five starters return.

TARAVELLA: Coach: Dawn Hall; Last year: 7-9; Top players: Melissa Ramirez-Alvarez (jr.); Elizabeth Ramirez (so.); Gabriela Campbell (so.); Noteworthy: This year’s team is mostly comprised of beginners.


Special to The Miami Herald

The Pine Crest girls’ tennis team, fresh off its first trip to state in 31 years, returns all of its top players from last season and adds three stellar newcomers from its Boca Raton campus.

But despite all that talent, Pine Crest might not be able to survive regional play this season.

That’s because Miami’s Gulliver Prep — the defending state champion in Class 2A — has moved into Pine Crest’s region.

“We’re probably one of the top two or three teams in the state in [Class 2A],” Pine Crest coach Brett Kurtz said. “If we get to regionals and face Gulliver, whoever wins that might win state.”

Pine Crest is led by freshman Stephanie Taylor, who is ranked No. 33 in the state in the girls’ 16s. She reached the state semifinals last season at No. 1 singles and did the same thing at No. 1 doubles with Kaely Malik, a junior.

“Me and [Malik] have a really long history — we’ve been been playing together for seven years,” Taylor said.

Malik, whose father, Farhan, is the Pine Crest boys’ coach, has become more attack-minded.

“She used to … I don’t want to say lob the ball, but she gets it back a lot,” Taylor said. “She’s very fast and can play four hours, and she will never quit. But now she is more aggressive.”

Pine Crest also has junior Ines de Bracamonte, who went 17-0 last season and won a state title at No. 3 singles.

“Ines always has great communication with our coach,” Malik said. “She will keep fighting.”

After the top three, things get really competitive to be in the five-deep starting lineup at Pine Crest. Junior Katarina Stevanovich was a state finalist last season at No. 4 singles, and Pine Crest has added freshmen Carly Feldman and Amanda Rubin and seventh-grader Demi Snyder, who is ranked 13th in the state in her age group.

It’s no surprise that this deep Pine Crest team has been invited to the Deco Turf National High School Championships. The 14-team tournament, set for March 21-22 in Louisville, Ky., has an elite field that includes schools from eight states.

Pine Crest and Miami’s Ransom Everglades will represent South Florida.

“I’m excited to go to that tournament,” Malik said. “We get to travel as a team, and that will bring us closer together.”

Soon after the team returns from Kentucky, Pine Crest will start what it hopes will be a long postseason run.

District playoffs begin March 31, and the regionals are April 8-10. The state tournament, which Pine Crest has never won outright, tying for the title in 1981, is set for April 14-18.

“I just hope we can win the whole thing this year,” said Taylor, 14. “But even if we don’t, we just want to try our hardest.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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