CLEARWATER — Wednesday's Class 4A-7 district tournaments at McMullen Tennis Complex were a testament to depth.
Palm Harbor University’s boys had players in six of the seven finals and collected 15 points, one more than East Lake, to earn the championship.
On the girls side, East Lake was the deepest team, with players in six of seven finals to earn a 16-15 overall win vs. Countryside. The top two teams advance to next week’s regionals.
The boys tournament came down to the No. 1 doubles final between East Lake’s Ganesh Rajaram and Ryan Hall and Countryside’s Jordan Monosky and Aaron Carey. The winning team would earn enough points to advance as runnerup.
Rajaram and Hall proved to be too much, winning 6-2, 6-2. Countryside finished third with 13 points.
It turned out to be a pretty good day for Rajaram. He won his second straight No. 1 singles title with a 6-4, 6-0 win over PHU’s Greg Perenich and will advance to the Class 4A state championship in Altamonte Springs in two weeks.
“The first set was really close, really tough,” said Rajaram, the Tampa Bay Times’ player of the year as a sophomore. “I think he got a little tired in the second set and I just tried to play it all over the court.”
Angel Deng made it a clean sweep for East Lake at No. 1 singles. Deng defeated last year’s district champion, Countryside’s Alex Kitchen, 6-3, 6-3.
“It was easier than our last few matches,” said Deng, who has known and played against Kitchen for about 10 years. “I know how she plays, and I came into the match with a plan to stay aggressive. I was just trying to move her around the court or hit an aggressive shot and have an easy putaway shot.”
The PHU boys won only two of the seven finals, but got enough points due to consistency. William Voitlein won at No. 4 singles, then teamed with Mohamed Nuh to win No. 2 doubles.
Nuh made the No. 2 singles final, but lost to Countryside’s Aaron Carey 6-0, 6-0. At No. 3 singles, East Lake’s Aaron Swartz beat PHU’s Alec Brown 6-2, 6-1. And at No. 5 singles, Countryside’s Juan Amado of beat PHU’s Ishan Mandani 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Like the PHU boys, East Lake’s girls captured No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles but had just enough points to edge Countryside. Courtney Grigsby (No. 4) won, then teamed with Jordan Botsch to win No. 2 doubles.
Countryside’s Shannon Wagner beat East Lake’s Madeline Samkutty 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Teammate Maria Diaz beat Botsch 6-3, 6-0 at No. 3. PHU’s Eleni Anastasopoulos beat Countryside’s Katlyn Ernst 6-2, 6-3 at No. 5.
Countryside’s No. 1 doubles team of Kitchen and Wagner beat Deng and Samkutty 7-5, 6-2 to earn a spot at state.
3A-11: Largo finally takes top spot
TREASURE ISLAND — For years, Largo had been tantalized by close calls, always watching another team take the boys district tennis title.
Four straight years, the Packers were runnerup.
Wednesday, Largo had its breakthrough moment, and the boys were so dominant in singles play that they did not have to worry about the outcome in doubles.
The Packers scored 16 points in the Class 3A, District 11 tournament, beating nemesis Osceola by five.
“This was a long time coming for this program,” coach Patty Beck said.
Largo took three of five in singles play with Jay Desai (No. 2), Chris Walters (No. 4) and Dennis Le (No. 5) winning. Walters also teamed with Kush Patel to win at No. 2 doubles.
“The guys all played well,” Beck said. “I know it’s been at least six years since the school has won a team title, but it could be longer than that.”
Boca Ciega’s Dan Stefan won at No. 1 singles and paired with Dustin Green to win at No. 1 doubles. Osceola’s Alex Wahl won at No. 3 singles.
Wahl’s victory helped the Warriors outscore Boca Ciega 11-10 for the runnerup spot.
On the girls side, Osceola, led by Jade and Jayla Smith, won the team title, beating Northeast 16-14.
Jade, who finished as district runnerup in singles last year, won at No. 1. Her sister, Jayla, won her third district title at No. 2 singles.
The two played together in doubles for the first time in two years at districts and won with ease at No. 1.
“I think we communicated a lot better out on the court,” Jade said. “Not that we don’t always do that, but I think we had a little extra out there for our matches.
“We played well because it was the district tournament, and we both wanted to step up to the occasion.”
Osceola’s Meredith Riccardi won at No. 3 singles and teamed with Jessica Powers to win at No. 2 doubles, a match that ultimately sealed the team title for the Warriors.
Aina Rossello won at No. 5 singles for Northeast.
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.