BC boys, girls tennis seek another repeat

When the euphoria died down after the Barron Collier High girls tennis team's 2005 state title win — and when you win the first girls tennis team title in Collier County history, that can take a while — Barron coach Nancy Eberhardt surveyed the Cougar tennis landscape. And a thought popped into her head.

"I thought we could do it again," Eberhardt said.

The scary thing? The Barron Collier boys tennis team, which won the fifth straight boys state tennis title for a Collier County team, was able to say the same thing.

Both the Cougars boys and girls tennis teams, who scored a rare double whammy in winning state titles in the same season, look just as powerful, if not moreso, than last season. With the vast majority of both teams, and an outstanding addition to the boys team, Barron Collier could be bringing two state titles home again.

Eberhardt wasn't trying to be arrogant when she thought her team could win another state title. But, after losing only one player in her top five on a team that finished second twice before winning a state title, a repeat wasn't out of the question.

"I realized what an amazing thing it was for each of those girls," she said. "I thought it would be great to have more girls have that opportunity. It certainly was the most exciting sporting event I've ever been in."

 Barron Collier's Eric Corace is a member of the defending state champion boys tennis team. Also, the Cougars' girls team is seeking a repeat as state champs this year.

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER, Daily News

Barron Collier's Eric Corace is a member of the defending state champion boys tennis team. Also, the Cougars' girls team is seeking a repeat as state champs this year.

It was the same for all the girls who were a part of that state title. And they admit that their motivation isn't just to win a second title, but to not finish second again.

"The first time (we finished second) it was like 'whoa' because it never happened before," senior Bean Johnstone said. "But the second time it was disappointing. The talk among us was that we were here to win. Now we want to show that it wasn't a fluke."

Collier County boys tennis teams have dominated on a state level, winning Class 3A titles since 2001. The Cougar boys started that streak and kept it alive by throttling the competition last season.

Coaches Eric and Tyler Manring felt that they too had enough firepower returning to make another run. Then came a new player who added to the ammunition.

Reid Carleton, the No. 15 player in America in the 18-under rankings, moved from Pennsylvania to Naples and enrolled at Barron Collier. And a tennis Goliath got even bigger.

Barron Collier sophomore Gabby Ciferni returns a backhand volley during her match with Naples High sophomore Lauren-Nicole Lutz at the Naples Bath and Tennis Club on Thursday. The Barron Collier girls and boys tennis teams are both defending state champions. Ciferni defeated Lutz in the match 6-2, 6-1.

Photo by DAVID AHNTHOLZ, Daily News

Barron Collier sophomore Gabby Ciferni returns a backhand volley during her match with Naples High sophomore Lauren-Nicole Lutz at the Naples Bath and Tennis Club on Thursday. The Barron Collier girls and boys tennis teams are both defending state champions. Ciferni defeated Lutz in the match 6-2, 6-1.

"I thought we had a pretty good team," Eric Manring said. "Then we got a No. 1 like Reid and then with everyone behind him, it works out really well.

"(Reid's) so confident," he added. "He's really good and he has a lot of match experience. He just knows how to win."

But the most important ingredient in both teams' success is something tennis players don't usually have to deal with – team chemistry. In the junior circuit, tennis players usually just have to worry about themselves, maybe a doubles partner, but no more. In high school tennis, it's more than just one or two players. It's five and more and the relationships between all those athletes can mean everything.

Barron senior Brian Irvin knows all about that need for chemistry. He's been a part of three state championship teams – two at Naples and one at Barron Collier – and would love to add a fourth straight title to his mantle. And he'd love to do it with this group.

"I'm starting to realize this is my last year," Irvin said, "and I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life.

"I want to make memories with these kids that I'm so close to," he continued. "Anything less would be disappointing."

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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