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Featured Picklers: High school tournament players

Longtime friends from Westchase, Ava Planeta and Danielle Musry, were among the newcomers.

Players have a blast in high school tournament

At the high school circuit, the winter holiday break often is filled with basketball, soccer and wrestling tournaments. Add pickleball to that list.

Similar to ice hockey, which has been played for more than three decades in Florida at the club level, and lacrosse, with boys and girls teams joining the Florida High School Athletic Association in recent years, pickleball is the latest upstart sport.

A beginning stage took place on Dec. 30 with the Snowball Slam, a high school tournament at Tampa Bay Pickleball's Oldsmar facility.

"Pickleball is more than just a sport," said Alonso High senior Ben Klaus, who along with his brother Kennedy and father Eric is a co-founder of Tampa Bay Pickleball. "It's one of the few things that boys and girls can play together while building lifelong friendships and developing a healthy, active lifestyle."

The inaugural tourney drew experienced players and newcomers alike.

High school students playing pickleball.
The facility's six courts were filled with high school players.

Among the newcomers were Ava Planeta and Danielle Musry, longtime friends from Westchase. Planeta played on Calvary Christian's back-to-back state champion softball teams and Musry plays soccer at Sickles.

"I wanted to try something new," Musry said.

Another player from Sickles, Eris Lustan, tried pickleball for the first time: "I love it. I'm obsessed with it."

At the other end of the spectrum were Berkeley Prep students Zach Hashemian and Roman Frederick. They and some classmates have been trying to get a club program going, similar to what already exists at Plant.

"We want to have a high school program," said Frederick, noting that there are six pickleball courts on the Berkeley Prep campus.

Added Hashemian, "I think that the sport has gotten a lot more competitive."

Photos by Steve Lee

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