Gretkowski

Allie Gretkowski returns a backhand in recent ITF Costa Rica Bowl action.

Wando coach Winde Ellenberg is looking for another outstanding season for the Warriors after going all the way to the Class AAAAA state final last spring. The Warriors have four seniors and newcomer standout Luke Prendergast among their top eight players.

"We had some great scrimmages preseason with PG (Porter-Gaud) and BE (Bishop England) and are now just starting region play," Ellenberg said. "I have hopes that we will do as well as we did last year, winning Lower State. Always looking to improve."

The Warriors, off to a 2-0 start, will face major tests in a March 20 home showdown with powerful Class AA Philip Simmons and a visit to Philip Simmons' outstanding tennis facility on April 9.

Prendergast has moved to the top of the veteran Wando lineup." He is a solid addition as a consistent tournament player and No. 1 for our team," Ellenberg remarked about Prendergast, a junior and former Oceanside Collegiate player.

The Warriors also rely heavily on veterans Alex Shaw, Will Bumgarner, Jack Johnson and Nick Heindel in their attempt to surpass last year's Lower State champions.

BE DROPS A LITTLE

Defending Class AAA state champion Bishop England has dropped off a notch in the loss of Jared Pratt (Wisconsin) and Lleyton Dacuba (Queens) to college tennis, and the Bishops already have run into some of the power of Philip Simmons. The Bishops dropped a 5-2 decision to the Iron Horses, who were missing the Smith brothers, Max and Jake, as well as talented Carson Baker.

Coach Kristin Fleming Arnold's BE team is 1-1 and will move into its AAA region play this coming week with matches against Academic Magnet on Tuesday and Georgetown on Thursday. The Bishops should be just fine against all Class AAA opposition.

"The boys are looking good and gearing up for the season," Arnold said.

Just the same, PSHS coach Richard Schulz was happy to see a large turnout of 26 team family members supporting the Iron Horses against the Bishops. "Tennis is alive and well at PSHS," Schulz said. "We are better than advertised."

But without five of its top six players, including No. 1 Coy Simon, both Smiths and Baker, Philip Simmons lost to Charlotte Latin in the Florence tournament and is currently 5-1 heading into a showdown with Oceanside Collegiate on Tuesday at the PSHS courts.

WAVE, P-G STRUGGLE

Summerville and Porter-Gaud have struggled thus far in the season.

"We are a super young team this year and still trying to see where we fit within the state and our region," second-year Summerville coach Jesse Gladis said. The Green Wave is 2-4 and has not started Region 8-AAAAA play where Wando usually dominates. Summerville will open region play on Monday at James Island.

The big surprise for Summerville is the emergence of Rollings Middle School eighth-grader Sam Dimuzio as the Green Wave's No. 1 player.

SCISA Class AAA defending state champion Porter-Gaud also has a young No. 1 player in smallish eighth-grader Lucas Acevedo.

Coach Jonathan Barth's Cyclones are only 2-3, but the losses have come against Philip Simmons, Bishop England and Hilton Head Prep, with wins over Summerville and Pinewood Prep.

GRETKOWSKI SHINES

Local junior Allie Gretkowski missed the recent Volvo Car Open Wild Card Event due to a scheduling conflict, but the 15-year-old didn't come up empty handed from a trip to San Jose, Costa Rica, to participate in the ITF Costa Rica Bowl.

Gretkowski advanced through qualifying with three straight wins and then won three more times in succession to advance to the main draw semifinals in singles, leaving the Central American city with a 6-1 won-lost record.

RPTA AT PALM SPRINGS

A large group of juniors from the Randy Pate Tennis Academy at LTP Tennis and Family Circle Tennis Center is preparing for a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., for the spring national championships that will start March 23.

The group includes Emma Navarro and Anna Ross in the girls 18 main draw; Lara Schneider and Gretkowski in girls 18 qualifying; Whitley Pate, Emma Charney and Sonia Maheshwari in the girls 16 main draw; Piper Charney and Alice Otis in the girls 14 main draw; Coy Simon in the boys 18 main draw; Max Smith in the boys 16 main draw; Carson Baker in the boys 14 main draw; and Sawyer Severance in the boys 12 main draw.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Senior tennis star Brenda Carter was among the honorees at the Trident Literacy Association's Founder's Day Award Luncheon on Thursday at Charles Towne Landing's Founders Hall. Carter has won more than 60 national tennis championships in singles and doubles and has played on 17 USTA international senior teams. She has won six world singles titles.

-- Several Volvo Car Open WTA Tour standouts will teach a free junior clinic on Sunday, March 31 from 4-5 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston. The Citadel tennis team also will teach in the clinic. Juniors should RSVP to Charleston Tennis Center (843-766-7401) by Tuesday to participate in the event.

-- Charleston Tennis Center will stage the USTA-sanctioned Lowcountry Junior Tournament March 22-24. The entry deadline is March 18. Registration is available online at tennislink.usta.com using the tournament number (700041119).

 -- Former USC Upstate tennis player Sandy Franz is starting a Charleston Tennis Circuit based on the Universal Tennis Rating system. The first tournament is an 18-and-under event scheduled for May 10-12 at the I'On Club in Mount Pleasant. Contact Franz at Sandy@charlestontenniscircuit.com.

-- The Citadel will play a doubleheader against the tennis teams of Richmond and Lehigh on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, at the Jack Adams Tennis Center near The Citadel.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on the Grand Slams at ubitennis.net/author/james-beck