Sunday, February 15, 2004

Good Sports: Talented family making quite a racket

Allare family/Maineville

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After a long week of school and work, John, Bunnie, John Jr. and Matt Allare look forward to a standing Sunday tennis date at The Club at Harper's Point in Maineville.

That's where the family bonding turns ugly.

"It's a knock-down, drag-out fight," said Bunnie, who teams with son John Jr. in match that determines bragging rights for a week. "It's for blood."

The tennis genes run deep in John, a former Notre Dame player, and Bunnie, a Harper's Point teaching pro with a resume of national rankings.

Then there are their children: Kings freshman Matt is ranked No. 1 by the United States Tennis Association for 14-year-olds in doubles, and No. 19 in singles. Kings junior John ranks No. 6 nationally in 16-and-under doubles and shares the top mother-son doubles ranking with Bunnie.

For all their good-natured Sunday squabbling, there are proud days such as Aug. 10. Bunnie and John Jr. won the gold ball, or highest award, in the Mother-Son Clay Court Championships at Queen City Racquet & Fitness Club - the same day Matt won a silver ball in the 14-and-under Super National Hard Court Championships in San Antonio, Texas.

"I've been wanting a gold ball my whole life. I basically had to grow my own partner," Bunnie said, laughing.

On-court compatibility, coupled with John's maturity, has propelled the pair to their ranking - a solid accomplishment considering they've played mother-son mixed doubles teams with older, more experienced sons.

Though playing with Mom hasn't always been the coolest thing in the world, John admitted that Bunnie is "probably better than most moms."

"At first I was a little embarrassed," John said. "Now I'm proud of it."

Which is why he won't give up his doubles partner on Sundays. The brothers could be a formidable force on the Kings tennis team this year, but in the meantime they look forward to duking it out for ultimate Allare dominance each weekend.

"It's pretty intense," Matt said. "Me and my brother are always trying to hit each other with balls, and our parents are trying to calm us down."

Connie Hsu/Anderson

Twelve-year-old tennis player Connie Hsu will represent the United States in the 18th annual Maureen Connelly Brinker Cup in Melbourne, Australia, March 12-14. The match features six of the top girls players from the United States and Australia. Hsu is ranked No. 9 in the country among 12-and-under singles players by the United States Tennis Association. She placed third at the Copper Bowl Junior Tennis Championships in January and fourth at the USTA Super National Winter Championships in December. "She practices every day before school and two to four hours a night," said her coach, Brett DeCurtins, of Beechmont Racquet Club. "Some days we have to tell her, 'You need a day off.' "

John Oscar/Madeira

U.S. Coast Guard Academy first class cadet and starting middle linebacker John Oscar thought beating the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 9-7 for the Secretaries' Cup was a big deal - until he met Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge after the annual football game. Team captain Oscar, a former Moeller High captain, helped the Bears snap a five-game losing streak against Kings Point. Ridge was cheering on Coast Guard, while Secretary of Transportation Norman Minetta rooted for Kings Point at the game in New London, Conn. Ridge shook hands with Oscar and other players and posed for pictures after the game.

Team of the week/Franklin

The American Family Insurance Butterflies 6-to-8-year-old indoor soccer team recently won the Passer girls' division with an 8-0 record. The Butterflies scored 85 goals and gave up two. The team members, who hail from Franklin, Liberty Township, Middletown and Monroe, are Charly Jackson, Allison Donham, Sabrina Frankel, Amanda King, Brittani Ivans, Sarah Benz, Ashten Henry, Mara Steiner, Alex Hall, Courtney Hartman and Kaleigh Ireton.

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