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TENNIS / DANA HADDAD : Doubles Dulled Varvais’ Singles

When Nick Varvais received an invitation to play for the Southern California Tennis Assn. in a national tournament, he savored the opportunity to help defend the team’s two-year championship.

Varvais, 15, of Simi Valley, was one of six 18-and-under players to play for the SCTA team two weeks ago in Columbia, S.C. The team won its third intersectional title, but Varvais played a minor role. He took part in two doubles matches and a few singles matches that didn’t count toward the team score.

But should the SCTA solicit Varvais again next year, the answer probably would be no.

Varvais said the experience was a direct cause of his second-round loss at the United States Tennis Assn. junior national singles championships this week in Kalamazoo, Mich.

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“I don’t think I’m going to go next year if I get invited,” Varvais said. “I would be better off just getting good practice here.

“Going into nationals, I didn’t have quite as much confidence in my shots.”

Varvais was ousted by Ryan Thompson of Santa Ana, a player he beat, 7-5, 7-5, in June at the Southern California junior sectional championships in Fountain Valley.

Thompson scored a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory in the rematch.

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Varvais surged to a fifth-place finish in the sectional and had high expectations for nationals. To make matters worse, he also lost in his consolation match to Scott Thompson of Thousand Palms, 7-6, 7-5, and returned home by midweek.

“Coming in, I was kind of worried,” Varvais said. “I was upset about what happened at intersectionals. You have to get lots of practice. These players are real tough. I need to be really ready.

“I got an hour and a half, two hours, instead of three to four hours of practice every day. [In the intersectional matches], I didn’t get tough players. I was getting set up with the sixth player on the other teams, which weren’t that strong. They had one or two good players. The rest were kind of bad.”

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Ironically, while Varvais struggled in nationals, Jason Cook of Woodland Hills reasserted himself after a disappointing sectional.

In Fountain Valley, Cook, seeded first, lost in the second round.

But at nationals, Cook lasted until the third round, losing to No. 1 Justin Gimelstob of Roseland, N.J., 6-2, 6-0, then winning twice before losing in the quarterfinals of the consolation draw.

Vervais said Cook benefited by playing No. 4 singles on the intersectional team.

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“He got opponents that gave him good competition, but they didn’t kill him and wear him down,” Varvais said. “I wasn’t so lucky.”

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When Kirsten Gross and Shera Wiegler embarked on a three-city tour of national tournaments last month, Kirsten’s mother Mary predicted the trip would be like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland.

Gross and Wiegler suffered some minor injuries on the court and received consistently bad directions from the locals while driving from Louisville, Ky., to Memphis, Tenn., to Columbus, Ind., and back to Louisville.

But the Calabasas High seniors fulfilled at least one objective--to see and be seen by college coaches.

Wiegler will likely receive a scholarship offer from Texas El Paso but plans to take her scheduled recruiting trips to Iowa, Syracuse, and possibly Rice and Virginia before making a decision.

Gross will visit Cornell and UC Santa Barbara, and possibly Rice and Virginia.

“I played not my best but decent enough to get noticed,” Gross said.

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Gross’ best tournament was the Western Open in Columbus late in July. She reached the fourth round of consolation before retiring mid-match with a blister on her right foot. Wiegler withdrew from the same tournament after suffering a wrist injury.

“I guess we got what we wanted: to meet the coaches and see which coaches and schools we liked,” Wiegler said.

“I had good days and bad days.”

The ride, however, would have been more pleasurable had they not been led down so many wrong routes.

“Nobody in Kentucky and Tennessee knows how to give directions,” Gross said. “We got lost so much.”

Said Wiegler: “It finally got to the point where, if somebody told us to go north, we would go south.”


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