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Trio local tennis players shine at USTA event

—Submitted Photo Manuela Rodriguez, Luke Vaughan and Joe Li (left to right) picked up two golds and a silver at the USTA First Strike Back to School Tennis Tournament in Ames this past weekend.

AMES — Three local Fort Dodge tennis players came away with two golds and a silver on the courts at the USTA First Strike Back to School Tournament.

In the boys 16-and-under division, Luke Vaughan bested Joe Li in the finals while Manuela Rodriguez captured the girls 16 singles bracket. All three are Fort Dodge residents.

The event took place inside the Ames Fitness Center.

In the championship, Vaughan earned a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Li. Vaughan was the No. 2 seed and Li the top-seed in the bracket.

Vaughan scored 6-0, 6-0 and 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Li earned 6-0, 6-2 and 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) wins in his two matches.

Rodriguez downed the No. 1 seed in the finals, Allie Christensen, 6-4, 6-3. She topped the second-seed, Lilith Francel, in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-1, and also earned a straight-set victory in the quarterfinals.

All three players are coached by Manny Flores, who led the University of Philippines to a national championship his senior year. His daughter, Victoria Flores, is a current member of the Georgia Tech women’s tennis program.

“It was really good for them all three to play this past weekend,” Flores said. “We just really need more players to be involved in tennis. Having that would help them get better because it would give them more competition and more players to practice with.

“Hopefully seeing these three have success will inspire other kids to want to join the spot and play.”

Vaughan is a junior at Fort Dodge Senior High, Li is a junior at St. Edmond and Rodriguez is a seventh-grader at St. Edmond.

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