MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
BROOKSVILLE — A steady headwind at Nature Coast made Tuesday’s Class 2A region semifinal between Land O’Lakes and the host Sharks an adventure in patience.
On one side of the court, the wind blew directly into the face of the players, allowing them to tee off on the ball without much worry about it landing long.
On the other side players had to use placement and touch to keep the ball inside the baseline.
Backed by tremendous depth up and down their lineup, the Sharks were able to handle the conditions and Land O’Lakes to move on to Thursday’s region final after a 4-2 win.
Nature Coast hosts Mitchell on Thursday with the winner advancing to next week’s state tournament.
“We’re used to playing in the wind,” Nature Coast boys coach Tom Brown said. “We just played the ball low and tried to keep it out of the air.”
Land O’Lakes’ Colin Roller had no problems battling the elements against the Sharks’ Tyler Schwefringhaus at No. 1 singles. Roller, a junior who has lost to only one North Suncoast opponent in three seasons, used an overpowering serve and pinpoint placement on his groundstrokes to cruise to a 6-1, 6-0 victory.
“It was tough to get the toss right on my serve but when I did, it was money,” Roller said. “You can’t get annoyed by the wind because if it gets into your head, it can really hurt you.”
Nature Coast, though, won the next four singles matches to advance. The Sharks’ No. 2 singles player David Cross blanked Alexander Wang 6-0, 6-0. Andrew Lund also won without dropping a game in a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Harrison Luong at No. 3 singles for Nature Coast, and the Sharks’ Zenon Kouts rolled past Erik Thielbar 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4 singles.
The match of the day came at No. 5 singles, where Land O’Lakes’ Tyler Sanders rallied from a set down against Nature Coast’s Josh Weaver to split sets and force a third. Weaver played a more conservative game in the final set and persevered to win 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
“(Weaver) played a little more defensively in the third set and didn’t go for as many shots,” Brown said.
Roller and Luong defeated Schwefringhaus and Cross 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles with the match still hanging in the balance.
The No. 2 doubles match was not played because the Sharks had already wrapped up the victory.
Bryan Burns, Times staff writer
Mustangs' playoff win a first
TRINITY — Last week, the Mitchell boys tennis program won its first district title since 2002.
Tuesday, the Mustangs added another accolade to their rapidly expanding list of accomplishments.
Strengthened by its depth, Mitchell defeated Crystal River 4-3 in a Class 2A region match for the first team playoff win in school history.
“I’ve got a team of 14 guys so there are a lot of players to draw from, which makes it really good,” third-year Mitchell coach Carrie Page said. “Even though we only played our top five today, they all had contributions whether in practice or in support of their teammates.”
A young Mitchell team that starts a lineup of three sophomores, a junior and a senior needed help from all five players to pull through to Thursday’s region final at Nature Coast. The Mustangs fell behind early after No. 1 Swayze Page was knocked off in three sets by Crystal River’s Brandon Papp 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and the Pirates’ Tyler Swanson defeated Mitchell’s Tony Nguyen 7-5, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
Mitchell, though, relied on the back end of its lineup to advance. Sterling Bash was a 6-0, 6-1 winner over Luke Bennett at No. 3 singles. Nicholas Calisch blanked the Pirates’ Caleb Sanders 6-0, 6-0 at No. 4 singles, and Gregory Hovsepian, playing in the No. 5 singles position for Mitchell, handled Nathan Molinero 6-2, 6-1 to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead after singles.
Bash and Calisch wrapped up the narrow victory for Mitchell by pulling out a 6-1, 6-4 victory at No. 2 doubles against Molinero and Bennett. The Mustangs’ doubles team appeared to be on cruise control after opening the second set with a 4-1 lead, but Crystal River’s duo fought back to tie the set at 4-all. Bash and Calisch regrouped to take the next two games and the match, Bash serving an ace on match point to close out the historic win.
“That (ace) was really nice. I enjoyed that,” Bash said. “My first serve is inconsistent, but when I get it in it works really well.”
Page and Nguyen fell 6-2, 7-5 to Papp and Swanson at No. 1 doubles, but by that time, Mitchell had already wrapped up its first postseason victory.
Bryan Burns, Times staff writer
TAMPA — Jesuit rolled past Sarasota Booker 4-1 in a Class 2A regional at Hunter’s Green.
The Tigers made quick work of the Tornadoes, as sophomore Jordan Nasser and senior Ryan Walden won their two matches without dropping a game and sophomore David Pagliarulio and senior T.R. Bopp won by 6-0, 6-1 scores.
The only thing preventing a sweep for the Tigers was the ease in which they won. When victory was clinched, No. 1 Jamie Sullivan, who was down a set and leading 3-2 in the second, retired.
John C. Cotey, Times staff writer
Bradenton Bayshore ended Steinbrenner’s season 4-3 by taking the top three singles matches in a Class 2A regional, forcing the Warriors to win every match to win.
Despite earning wins at No. 4 singles by Jared Gordon Martin (6-0, 6-0) and No. 5 singles Ryan Schoel (6-0, 6-0), Steinbrenner dropped the No. 1 doubles match before Jared Gordon Martin and Max Kennard rebounded at No. 2 doubles for a 6-0, 6-0 win.
Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer