Cyclones lose 2-time player of year Skelly

Porter-Gaud appeared to be a solid contender just a few weeks ago to repeat as SCISA Class AAA state girls champion. That's no longer the case.

Coach Charlotte Hartsock's team has lost the services of two-time Lowcountry player of the year Ann Martin Skelly for at least this season. Hartsock has confirmed that Skelly is no longer on the Porter-Gaud team. Although she hasn't played singles in a match this season, Skelly has played some doubles.

Skelly's mother, Kelly, said, “(Ann Martin) hopes to play again next season as a senior. In preparation to possibly play college tennis, she's going through some changes in her game that require her to take a break from playing competitive tennis.”

Without Skelly's superb left-handed game, Porter-Gaud has fallen on hard times with a 2-4 record going into Monday's rescheduled match against archrival Ashley Hall (the match was rained out Thursday).

Ashley Hall, which lost to Porter-Gaud in the 2014 state final, now looks like the probable favorite to win this year's state title, with Columbia's Hammond School as the top threat.

“Since there are only three teams in our conference (Ashley Hall, Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud), I have played some other SCISA teams in the state,” veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley said, pointing out that the Panthers have played and defeated Cardinal Newman and Heathwood Hall (twice), and lost to former AAA power Hilton Head Prep.

Wando is on a roll under first-year coach Eric Praedel. The Warriors were unbeaten going into the weekend and should be strong contenders for the Class AAAA state girls title they narrowly missed winning last year.

They are so deep and loaded that Praedel is having a hard time playing all of the stars. “My top girls are extremely talented and my focus is to keep them positive if they get down in a match. They are by far their biggest critics,” Praedel said.

“We are off to a good start. We have quality wins over Bishop England and Porter Gaud.”

Wando is led by sophomores Lauren Quinn and Lily Conant, freshman Kat Lyman, junior Tyler Kirk, senior Brittany Hellberg and sophomore Morgan Mitchell, who played No. 3 last fall. Only Hellberg and Kirk didn't start in singles in 2014.

“There are several girls competing for starting varsity spots ... we are very deep,” Praedel said.

U.S. Pro Circuit Tennis has returned to the area for the $10,000 Charleston LTP tournament at Mount Pleasant's LTP Tennis. Veteran touring professional Alexandra Mueller is the top seed in the 32-player main draw.

Eight players from the 64-player qualifying draw on Sunday and Monday will advance to the Tuesday start of the main draw. Play will begin at 11 a.m. daily until next Sunday's noon singles final. Attendance is free to the public.

Mueller is a 27-year-old from Abington Township, Pa., who has been ranked as high as 280th in the world and owns victories over the likes of Alison Riske, Madison Brengle and Nicole Gibbs. She is currently ranked No. 583.

LTP product Emma Navarro, who ended 2014 ranked 37th nationally in girls 14 and is aiming to become No. 1 in the nation, has been awarded a main draw wild card along with Katie LaFrance of Little Rock, Ark., who also trains at LTP. LaFrance turns 16 on Tuesday.

Jared Pratt closed out the summer impressively in boys 16 in the 128-draw Level 1-A Southern tournament in Columbus, Ga., taking first place in singles and second in doubles in boys' 16. Jacob Jahn took fifth place in singles, and fourth in doubles with fellow Academic Magnet student Sam Kavarana, who also made the round of 16 in singles. Jahn defeated Brant Fenno in singles in the round of 16.

Charleston's WTA Tour connections are on the rise. Local native Shelby Rogers is still No. 154 in the world, while local residents Jessica Pegula and Samantha Crawford are Nos. 158 and 178, respectively. Crawford came through qualifying and advanced to the quarterfinals in the WTA Tour stop in Quebec, while for the second straight tournament (dating back to the U.S. Open) Pegula fought through Quebec qualifying and then won a round in the main draw.

Rogers withdrew from last week's Albuquerque, N.M., U.S. Pro Circuit event with a small scare. “Everything is OK. I had a little setback with some back pain, but I will be heading to Las Vegas next week,” Rogers said last week. Of course, Rogers has seen her share of injuries this year.

A Mount Pleasant Rec team captained by Jane Fluet will be heading to Surprise, Ariz., next month to compete in the women's 55 national championships after taking the Southern 4.0 title last weekend in Asheville, N.C.

In the Southern Sectional 40-plus championships in Asheville, Sarah Pitts' team from Mount Pleasant Rec was the women's 3.0 runner-up.

Local teams did well in the recent state mixed doubles championships in Florence. The state titlists included Michael Carroll's 18-plus 7.0 MPR team, Lauren Brown's 18-plus 10.0 team, Angie Thomas' 40-plus 7.0 MPR team, Rob Wilson's 40-plus 8.0 I'On team and Wonza Welch's 65-plus 7.0 Farmfield team.

The Lowcountry Tennis Association party will be held Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center as part of the HSI Charleston Pro Tennis League program. The eight-team CPTL will hold its next program on Friday night at I'On.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on Grand Slam Tennis at www.ubitennis.com/english/