NEW PORT RICHEY — Courage Okungbowa’s family moved from Virginia to Wesley Chapel last year so the tennis phenom could train year round.
Okungbowa, the No. 1 singles player at Wiregrass Ranch, has thrived in the Florida sunshine, developing more dependable ground strokes to go along with his all-court game.
Thursday at the Class 3A, District 5 tournament, Okungbowa showed off all of his skills. The smooth-swinging sophomore waltzed through the top singles draw without losing a game to win his first individual district title and earn an automatic qualification into the state tournament. He defeated Lecanto’s Mallik Begur 6-0, 6-0 in less than 30 minutes in the final.
“In Virginia, I would just practice Monday and Saturday. Here, I hit pretty much every day. My shots are a lot more consistent because of it,” he said.
Behind Okungbowa’s dominating performance, Wiregrass Ranch claimed its second straight district team title. The Bulls, who had finalists in all seven flights, finished with 27 points. Lecanto was second with 21 points and will also advance to next week’s first-round regional. Springstead (eight points) was third.
Wiregrass Ranch won six of seven finals. Bulls’ No. 2 Spencer Ong took care of Lecanto’s Jake Tamposi 6-2, 6-4. Okungbowa and Ong were 6-0, 6-0 winners in the No. 1 doubles final to qualify for states.
Wiregrass Ranch’s Jaime Feliciano (No. 4) and Dan Helfrich (No. 5) each won 6-0, 6-0 in their finals. The Bulls’ only loss came at No. 3 singles, where Eric Busch was ousted by Lecanto’s Rishi Gurnani 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Busch teamed with Koustubh Ramesh to win the No. 2 doubles bracket, defeating Lecanto’s Tamposi and Zach Alford 7-6 (7-1), 6-1.
For the girls, River Ridge No. 1 Tijana Subotic avenged a regular-season loss to Wiregrass Ranch’s Hannah Still to advance to state. Subotic, who took the first set in their regular-season meeting but ran out of gas in a three-set loss, played one of the best matches of her career in an easier-than-expected 6-3, 6-0 victory.
“I got tired really quickly the first time we played,” Subotic said. “I ran out of energy. This match, I tried to jump on her early and keep the points shorter so I don’t have to play long points and get tired.”
Subotic and Jordyn Garcia rolled to a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Citrus’ Sarah Labrador and Stephanie Dodd in the No. 1 doubles final to earn the automatic qualification to state as well.
Citrus (22 points), the only squad to beat River Ridge during the regular season, won four of seven finals to edge the Royal Knights by four points. Wiregrass Ranch stayed within striking distance but was unable to make it out of districts, placing third (13).
River Ridge’s Garcia made it to the final at No. 2 singles but lost to Citrus’ Dodd 6-3, 6-3. The Royal Knights’ Taylor Laroue was also a finalist but fell in the No. 3 singles final to Citrus’ Erin Davis 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Wiregrass Ranch sophomore Anne Cypriano was the only other local to make a final. Cypriano claimed first place at No. 5 singles after ousting Citrus’ Jaclyn Ear, the No. 1 seed, 6-3, 7-5.