Champions crowned at USTA junior tournament hosted by Van Der Meer

ksalter@islandpacket.comApril 29, 2014 

Some of the south's top young tennis talent was on display this weekend at the USTA Southern Level 1A Championship, which concluded Monday.

The event, hosted by the Van der Meer Tennis Academy, welcomed boys girls in the 12-under and 14-under age group to compete for sectional and national rankings points.

For three days, some of the top amateur players in the southern states batted in singles and doubles play, with the event culminating Monday at the Van der Meer Shipyard Racquet Club. There, two Boys 14 and Girls 14 finalists battled in a pair of singles finals.

Marietta, Georgia's Blake Croyder, 14, the No. 2 player in the south region at the 14-under level, rolled to a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 4 Drew Baird, 13, of Fairhope, Alabama.

"Today I played probably the best out of all my other matches," Croyder said. "I know that Drew didn't play his best. I'm good at making people move around, getting them off balance. Especially on the clay it's hard to stay on balance."

Baird said he came into the match a little nervous. Although it didn't go his way, he said he enjoyed his weekend of tennis on Hilton Head.

On the girls' side, 13-year-old Nicole Stephens, ranked in the top five in the South for her age range coming into the event, powered her way to a championship. It was the third title this year for the Marietta, Georgia, native, who said her favorite part of the weekend was facing high-end competition. Stephens won the final 6-2, 6-1.

"I just fought really hard," Stephens said, "and executed when it was needed."

Stephens beat fellow No. 5 seeded Lauren Gish of Mooresville, North Carolina. Gish said despite the loss, she enjoyed the opportunity to play at Hilton Head, where she said the atmosphere and palm trees make for a great tennis setting.

Tournament director Jim Stubbs said in all, it was a very successful weekend, which featured outstanding play and close matches. As a 1A tournament, participants had to have a high enough ranking to qualify, making it an especially attractive one to the best amateur players in the region.

"The quality of play has been great," Stubbs said. "The kids have all been spectacular. We've got nothing but compliments."

Stubbs said he hopes each of the 252 participants enjoyed the chance to travel to the island and play at the Van der Meer Academy and racquet club.

"We're patrons of tennis," Stubbs said. "It's a huge feather in our cap."

USTA Southern Level 1A Championship

Hosted by Van Der Meer Tennis Academy

Monday's results

Singles

Boys 14

Blake Croyder def. Drew Baird 6-1, 6-2

Girls 14

Nicole Stephens def. Lauren Gish 6-2, 6-1

Boys 12

Valewis Simpson def. Christian Picot 6-2, 6-1

Girls 12

Nicole Stephens def. Lauren Gish 6-2, 6-1

Doubles

Boys 14

Croyder/Zhang def. Chakka/Raina 8-1

Girls 14

Bashir/Humphreys def. Bilukha/Stephens 8-6

Boys 12

Picot/Posey def. Dunac/Jordan 8-4

Girls 12

Huth/Verizova def. Collins/Larson 8-3

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