LUTZ — Steinbrenner freshman Grace Korta, who has excelled on both clay and hard surfaces in the initial months of her prep career, proved Tuesday she also plays pretty effectively on edge.
Down 0-3 to Osceola freshman Jade Smith in the second set after a game-deciding baseline call went against her, Korta channeled her fury into her forehand.
She won the next six games, completing a 6-0, 6-3 triumph to highlight the Warriors’ 5-2 win against Osceola in a Class 2A region first-rounder at Cheval.
“That definitely fires me up,” said Korta, whose team (13-1) travels Thursday to Englewood Lemon Bay, where a state tournament berth will be at stake. “It benefits me, getting mad and fiery. It really got me focused.”
Korta, who didn’t lose a game at last week’s district tournament, was among four Warriors singles winners. Seniors Kaleigh Wagner (No. 2), Taylor Brannan (No. 4) and Carli Schwartz (No. 5) also won in straight sets.
Osceola’s lone singles triumph came at No. 3, where junior Jessica Schroeder topped Tatum Brannan 6-2, 6-2. Schroeder and Nicole Powers later teamed to eke out a three-set win against Ally Berglund and Erika Smitten at No. 2 doubles.
Lemon Bay, Steinbrenner’s Thursday opponent, swept Strawberry Crest 7-0 to advance.
Nature Coast clears hurdle
DADE CITY — Having lost to Zephyrhills in the first round of regionals last season, Nature Coast coach Louise Downey told her players they would not lose to a Pasco County team again now that they were back to that round.
The Class 2A, District 5 runnerup Sharks heeded that advice with a 4-1 win over host Pasco, which had won the 2A-6 title.
“We were in (the Pirates’) shoes last year and it hurts,” Downey said. “No one can deny it. I didn’t want a second time of losing in the first round of regions.”
Nature Coast, which has five straight playoff berths including a state appearance in 2009, won all four singles matches and might have won a fifth had not the No. 3 singles match been halted once players from both sides realized the Sharks had four victories.
Pasco’s Rebecca Pelham won the first set 6-2 and Kaitlyn Bugden won the second 7-6 (7-5), but that tiebreaker was never played out with Pasco earning the forfeit when Bugden came off the court to celebrate with her teammates.
In the other singles matches, No. 1 Mallorie Pickersgill defeated Amanda Dempsey 6-0, 6-0, No. 2 Delanie McCabe beat Mady Johnson 6-4, 6-2, No. 4 Rosie Witherell needed three sets for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 comeback win over Norah Taylor and No. 5 Christine Sniffen topped Sarah McCord 6-3, 6-4.
Despite his team’s loss, Pasco coach Don Charlick was in good spirits.
Pointing to a district champion sign on one of the court’s fences, he said, “Today was a great learning experience for the girls, there’s no doubt about it.”
Steve Lee, Times correspondent
Land O'Lakes shut out by Crystal River
Crystal River extended its unblemished record to 15-0 on Tuesday, cruising to a 7-0 victory over Land O’Lakes (8-5) in the Class 2A regional at Crystal River High School.
The closest match of the day was a showdown between the teams’ lone seniors in No. 1 singles. Crystal River’s Kristin Tringali won the first set 6-3 but found herself down 4-3 to Land O’Lakes’ Wenyi Gu in the second. On the changeover Tringali’s hair tie broke and she needed to borrow one from her doubles partner, student Rita Kerola. Kerola, who had just defeated Lindzi Arndt 6-1, 6-1, in No. 2 singles.
Apparently the good karma rubbed off because Tringali won the next nine points and 12 of the last 13 to close out the match.
Despite the loss, Land O’Lakes coach Samantha Taylor was proud of her team’s effort all season.
“This is definitely the best complete team we’ve played all year,” Taylor said. “I can’t say enough about how much were going to miss Wenyi. She’s been such an awesome leader. Not only is she the best player, but she motivates and encourages all of the other girls to work hard and give their best.
“Next year it’s going to be Lindzi and Jamie (Giacinto) turn to step into that senior role and follow in her footsteps.”
The other three matches were controlled by the Pirates as Kayla Papp defeated Cori Arndt, 6-1, 6-0, in No. 3 singles, Ashley Allen defeated Joselyn Lafond 6-4, 6-1, in No. 4 singles and Nikki Moynihan was a 6-2, 6-2, winner over Giacinto in No. 5 singles.
With the match already decided, both coaches opted for pro sets in doubles and Crystal River won both easily with Tringali-Kerola earning an 8-4 win over Gu-Lindzi Arndt and Papp-Allen dropping just one game in their 8-1 victory over Cori Arndt-Lafond.
John Coscia, Special to the Times