Midseason report: Hunter’s Green has combo power

We have reached the halfway point of the combo season, and so far the results have been surprisingly good with a few exceptions.

Here’s a look:

LADIES, 6.5, NIGHT: Double Trouble has been the most dominant combo team around. The Green Machine Blog (GMB) checked out their match against River Hills Monday and came away more impressed than ever.

Double Trouble is now 5-0, with 5 matches to play. They aren’t taking anything for granted, but basically have a 3-game lead over the second-place team due to a clean sweep of the tiebreakers. Wow — 14 of 15 lines won, only four sets lost, only 74 games dropped.

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The strength of the team is the 3.5s, a group made stronger — and we hardly thought that was possible — by the addition of Laura Baker. Against River Hills in her DT debut, Baker was pretty darned good teaming with Trina Hoyord for a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 2 singles.  Phuong is deftly negotiating a 2-year deal with Baker, which includes signing her to play 3,5 nights in the winter, which would be quite the coup.


Laura Baker (left) and Trina Hoyrod.

Sharon Patterson was surgical at No. 1, and at No. 3 Cindy Cooley showed some old school moves to get to some great shots.

DT beat River Hills 3-0, and didn’t drop a set, and didn’t even play Lara Slatniske, Nini Torres or Janene Culumber, which is pretty impressive, and captain Phuong Cotey and Sara Padgett — who as a tandem won their Ultimate Tennis match Sunday 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 by the way — aren’t chopped liver, either.

What truly separates Double Trouble from the rest of the field, however, is some 3.0 studs. Stumbling into Cherie Smith, who won’t be a 3.0 for long, is the kind of move that would make Phuong an Executive of the Year candidate in any of the major league sports. Smith has teamed with Patterson for easy wins so far, but she is versatile enough to make any 3.5 player better, no matter who it is.

Trina Hoyord and Marisa Martin are 3.0s who were listed as 3.5 when the early ratings came out two months ago, and could very well see bumps in December. Just imagine — by the time this team gets to sectionals in January, after the yearly ratings bumps, they could be playing with Slatniske and Patterson as 4.0s and Hoyord, Martin and Smith as 3.5s. That’s crazy.


Tibbie Farnsworth (l) and Cindy Cooley.

As for the other 3.0s, Mary Dunlap and Nikki Spirakis are improved, but no one has made a bigger jump than Tibbie Farnsworth. The crack team at the HGB was blown away by Farnsworth’s play Monday night. While her midcourt ground strokes still need some work, Farnsworth was effective keeping the ball in play from the baseline and struck a menacing pose at the net. And she’ll only get better.

The GMB rates the Double Trouble chances of advancing to sectionals as: HOT DAMN!

MEN, 6.5: The Original Tennis Gangstas, the team that started it all, the mighty Green Machine, has already clinched its spot in sectionals Jan. 22-24. The Green Machine is 4-0 with three matches left to play.Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.53.45 PM

It’s hard to judge this team, seeing as Tampa Palms, the only other team in the league, has been beset with injuries to their 3.0s and barely able to field lines. But this is the same group that went to sectionals last year, went 2-0 on the first day, and showed up too hungover on the second day to keep the momentum going. But enough about Andy Ritter and Fireball shots.

The Green Machine isn’t just going to sectionals for kicks, for the excitement of a weekend road trip, for a nice hotel stay like most teams do. The Green Machine is all-in on a state championship or bust. It’s that simple.

And why not? The 3.5s are a shitload better than they were last year, and the 3.0s have been upgraded with Scott Jankes and Jim Dicesaro, and not to sound like a broken record but we here at the GMB have a mancrush on Jimmy Hann’s tennis skills. Even the loss of J.R. Daws has barely fazed a Green Machine team that is deeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

The Green Machine is still the cream of the combo crop (though Double Trouble is turning this into a debate). So, yeah, anything less than the title will be a disappointment, as the team is bound to see some 3.5s and 3.0s get bumped this December and are looking at this year’s run as a final do-or-die.

The GMB rates the Green Machine chances of advancing to sectionals as: GETTING THERE SUCKS, WINNING IT IS EVERYTHING.

MEN, 7.5: The Baker’s Dozen — a great team name until you count the players on the roster and see they have 15, but we digress — is off to a great 3-1 start and coming off its best victory of the season. Playing at Fishhawk Ranch, a team that was 4-0 and hadn’t dropped a line or a set all season, the tandems of Mike Bitting-Shaun Cooley (No. 1) and Chris Baker-John Cotey (No. 3) dropped their first sets and somehow managed to rally to victories, lifting the team to a 2-1 victory.
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The team’s only loss, in fact, was a stunning heartbreaker, as one line squandered a 6-2, 4-1 lead, and another line choked away a 6-1, 5-2 lead, including a few match points. Otherwise, the team would be alone in first-place.

Still, the Baker’s Dozen are right in the mix. It still has six matches to play, and a long way to go. But the team has managed to cobble together lineups every week that have proven successful. The tandem of Bitting and Cooley are 3-0 with a pair of wins at Line 1, and Cotey and Baker are 2-0 after some three-set victories. Cotey also has a 3-set victory with Fred Tchanuk, because winning in two sets would just be too easy.

If Baker can keep scraping together strong enough lineups, his squad can surprise and advance to sectionals. After this week’s match against Avila (2-2), the schedule includes five of the bottom six teams in the current standings.

The GMB rates the Baker’s Dozen chances of advancing to sectionals as: IF WE HAD $20, WE’D BET $12 ON THE TEAM TO MAKE IT AND SPEND THE REST ON LUNCH AT CHIPOLTE.


About johncotey

John was a sportswriter and columnist for the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times for 25 years, before being pushed from the Titantic, and hopes all of you non-subscribers are happy reading your free news on the internets while his journalism brethren suffer. Not that he's not bitter or anything. His real true joys, however, are his wife, kids and tennis, though not necessarily in that order. Unless his wife is reading this. Then DEFINITELY in that order.
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