The odds were stacked against Ellie Halbauer winning last month's Dunlop Junior Championship's girls 18 title over some of the top junior players in the country.

The challenge for the 16-year-old former area resident will be even greater when she returns to Family Circle Tennis Center in two weeks to compete in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.

Although several junior Family Circle Cup champions have gone on to play in the main draw of the Family Circle Cup, including Shelby Rogers, Mallory Cecil and Alison Riske, 2003 winner Shadisha Robinson is the only junior Family Circle champion to have advanced through qualifying into the main draw of the WTA Tour tournament.

"I'm coming," Halbauer assured Friday when reached in Bradenton, Fla., where she has been training with her coach. "I hope I can win it. I'm trying to get stronger ... I've got to get fitter."

There's one stroke Halbauer doesn't have to spend much time honing: her down-the-line backhand. That's the shot that probably played the biggest role in her three-set upset of former USTA top-ranked junior Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C., in the Dunlop final. Halbauer, who moved to Boca Raton three years ago and now trains at the USTA training center there, also upended world's No. 2 junior Varvara Flink of Russia in the quarterfinals.

Beyond the March 29-30 qualifying tournament, Halbauer "would love" to follow in Shelby Rogers' footsteps and become a touring professional. "I haven't decided about college tennis," said the home-schooled sophomore, who trained under Bryan Minton at the old Players Club in Mount Pleasant from 2006-08.

Southern champs

Two local 7.5 combo senior women's teams won titles at the recent Southern Sectional Championships in Dothan, Ala.

Leah Biller's 40-plus team defeated Mobile, Ala., 2-1, for one title, and Joette Creager's 55-plus team defeated another Mobile team, 3-0, in the final.

Only two women's 55 teams participated in the Lowcountry Tennis Association's local league season, but Creager's Mount Pleasant Rec team won four of five meetings with Snee Farm to win the local league, then won the state to advance to the Southerns.

Former Wando coach Becky Williamson, who also played on Biller's 40-plus team through the state, posted a 5-0 record with partner Chris Jones in the 55-plus Southerns, while the Becky Montgomery/Mary Ann Borysowicz pair also went 5-0 for the 55-plus team in Dothan.

Biller's 20-player 40-plus team from Park West played a wide array of competition locally, then went 1-2 in its flight at state but still advanced to the semifinals and eventually won the state title by defeating its flight winner (Columbia) in a rematch.

Local notes

Diane Barker has been selected for the USTA's Maureen Connolly Cup 55-and-over team that will compete in the annual ITF Seniors World Championships at Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton, Fla., from April 21-26. The Charleston pro also will participate in the individual competition April 27-May 4.

Drew Halbauer has been offered a scholarship to play tennis for Louisville, according to his sister, Ellie, while older brother Trey is now teaching tennis at a country club in Connecticut.

Jonathan Edwards has accepted a tennis scholarship to play tennis at the University of Connecticut. Jonathan's father is LCTA president Ken Edwards.

Boosted by her eighth straight opening-match victory earlier this month in the main draw at Indian Wells, Shelby Rogers should climb from her current career-high 114th world ranking to among the top 110 women in the world when the new rankings come out Monday.

Several local facilities are scheduled to hold USTA Junior Play Days next Saturday: Charleston Tennis Center (9 a.m.-noon), Maybank Tennis Center (9-10:30 a.m.), Snee Farm Country Club (1-3 p.m.), Dunes West (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.), Daniel Island Club (1-3 p.m.) and Summerville's Doty Park (2-4 p.m.). Beginners to advanced players can participate. Go to www.youthtennis.com for more information.

Last month's fourth annual Legend Oaks Gives Back tournament raised $8,344 in support of The ARK Alzheimer's Family Support Services of Summerville.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.