CLEARWATER — Throughout Tuesday’s 3A-7 district championship round, Dunedin’s Josh Hammond was the most popular player at Royal Racquet Tennis Club. To Hammond, it must have felt like all eyes were on him.
Hammond won key titles for Dunedin at No. 4 singles and No. 1 doubles with Michael Beiler to help the Falcons repeat as district champions.
Hammond’s three-set win over Largo’s Kristi Sofroni (6-3, 6-7 (12-10), 6-1 kept Dunedin ahead with the Packers challenging. Sofroni made Hammond earn it, pulling out a back-and-forth second set tiebreak to extend the match.
“(Sofroni) figured out my strategy. He’s a good player,” Hammond said. “I made a couple mistakes in the tiebreaker that I could have won it in the second set, but I didn’t put the ball away.”
Hammond and Beiler’s 6-2, 6-2 win over Largo’s Peter Jackson and Kristian Beck clinched the title for Dunedin, which finished with 14 points to Largo’s 12. It also automatically qualifies the pair for state.
“My coach told me that if we didn’t win, we would tie (Largo),” Beiler said. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it right here.’ I was ready.”
Beiler, a junior, won his second straight individual title after defeating Gibbs freshman Juan Munoz 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1.
On repeating, Beiler said: “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to states though. That’s what we play for. Hopefully I can make a run this year.”
Matthew Baker knocked off Beck 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 for the Falcons’ fourth championship.
Largo won a title at No. 3 singles where Kyle Barry defeated Dunedin’s Charles Maggio 6-4, 6-2. The Packers made five of seven finals. Tarpon Springs was third with six points.
Gibbs won its third straight girls team championship in convincing fashion, taking 20 of a possible 21 points and reaching all seven finals.
The only championship Gibbs didn’t win came at No. 1 singles. Behind a vicious, whipping forehand and aggressive return game, Northeast sophomore Danielle Collins outmatched Gibbs senior Akilah James, playing her only season for the Gladiators after moving to the area from Brooklyn, N.Y., 6-1, 6-1.
Otherwise, it was all Gibbs.
Lindsay Hodgdon defeated Artemis Makris (Largo) 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2, Ebony Lamar was a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Brianna Couture (Largo) at No. 3, Lucic Petrova beat Lisa Rickards (Largo) 6-3, 6-1 at No. 4, and Masani Bailey took care of Melissa Hazatone (Tarpon Springs) 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5.
Hodgdon and James earn the state doubles automatic qualification with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Largo’s Couture and Megan Lauser at No. 1 doubles. Lamar and Petrova were winners for Gibbs at No. 2 doubles.
Largo advances to regionals after finishing second with 11 points. Dunedin, with six points, was third.