NEW PORT RICHEY — It took 34 years for it to happen, but Springstead not only won its first district title Wednesday, the Eagles swept the Class 3A, District 6 championship.
The Eagles had things in hand almost from the start.
“With the girls winning too, it is like icing on the cake,” second-year coach Joe Nicolai said. “This group of kids worked hard and did everything they could. If anyone deserves to be the first group to win the district, it should be these guys.”
Springstead won four of the seven individual titles. Patrick Deslaurier and Carl Zee combined to win No. 1 doubles over Mitchell’s Dan Lukish and Hoang Nguyen 6-2, 7-5. The victory catapults at least those two Eagles to the state meet in Altamonte Springs this month.
Hank Deslaurier and Robert Hoover teamed to win No. 2 doubles 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 over Mitchell’s Greg and Zach Hovsepian. Hank also captured No. 3 singles in straight sets over Land O’Lakes’ Samvit Iyer, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, while Zee defeated the Gators’ Christopher Mo 6-3, 6-0 in the No. 2 final.
The runnerup spot was in the balance until the final match with the Gators and Mustangs tied at 11 points. Zach Hovsepian pushed his team to regionals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Hoover.
“This is what we work all year for,” Zach Hovsepian said. “I had played (Hoover) and won pretty easily so I was pretty confident.”
Lukish will also advance to state on the heels of his No. 1 singles title over Land O’Lakes’ David Dollbaum.
With 13 points, Springstead’s girls dominated in similar fashion. The Eagles crowned champions in No. 2 doubles (Scarlett Semack and Robyn Cotney), No. 2 singles (Semack), No. 4 singles (Cotney) and No. 5 singles (Ashley Clark).
For Cotney, whose record sits at 17-0 on the season, the victory was sweet. The team moves on to the region semifinals next week.
Land O’Lakes’ Kavya Avancha and Cori Arndt have stamped their tickets to state with a No. 1 doubles victory over Zephyrhills’ Sydney Owens and Hannah Ungerer, 6-4, 6-4. Avancha came up just short of pulling double duty at state, losing the No. 1 singles title to Leesburg’s Janelle Taylor 6-1, 7-6 (7-1).
With a tie at 11 points between Central and Land O’Lakes for second going into the final match, the pressure was on Gators freshman Deneen Wang and the Bears’ Brittany Blackburn.
Wang had lost to Blackburn earlier in the season, but after regrouping Wang earned a close 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 win.
“I had to shake off my nerves and do the best I could,” Wang said. “The older girls came up to me and told me to play my game. I did that and it worked out.”
4A-5: Wiregrass has yet to meet its match
WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch’s boys tennis team cruised through the regular season and celebrated another coronation Wednesday.
The Bulls swept the two-day, Class 4A, District 5 tournament at home to claim their fourth consecutive district championship. Wiregrass Ranch will host Plant in Tuesday’s regional.
“They don’t know how to lose,” coach Dave Wilson said of his Bulls.
Not even a set. Wiregrass still hasn’t dropped a set all season and lost more than three games in only one match Wednesday.
Senior Courage Okungbowa had the closest outcome in the No. 1 singles final. Plant City’s Harrison Heysek forced game point with the first set tied at 5 but ripped a shot wide. The FAMU-bound Okungbowa responded to win 7-5, 6-2, claim his third consecutive district title and earn an automatic trip to state.
“There’s an expectation,” said Okungbowa, last year’s Class 4A state runnerup.
Okungbowa and Agustin Moreno won the No. 1 doubles title after Spencer and Harrison Heysek withdrew from the final because of illness. Moreno also won the No. 2 singles title with a 6-2, 6-1 win.
Niels Van Dam (No. 3 singles), Alejandro Feliciano (No. 4 singles, No. 2 doubles) and Foresight Okungbowa (No. 5 singles, No. 2 doubles) earned blue ribbons with wins. Plant City finished runnerup in every match and next faces Wharton.
Wiregrass’ girls are also headed to regionals and a trip to Plant after a close runnerup finish to Newsome. The Bulls had every team advance to the final except No. 2 doubles — and that was the difference in Newsome’s victory.
Standout sophomore Star Makarome won her second straight district titles in No. 1 singles and doubles. One of the country’s top junior players, Makarome didn’t lose a game at districts and has dropped only two in nine matches this spring.
Makarome, last year’s 4A state runnerup, and sophomore Tiffany Garner clinched another trip to state with a 6-1, 6-2 win over the Wolves.
“We get along …” Makarome said of her partner. “We played a lot more together this year.”
Wiregrass’ Victoria Chavez upset No. 1 seed Alaina Ewing from Newsome with a 6-1, 6-1 victory in the No. 2 singles final. Garner (No. 3 singles), Marisa Hoffman (No. 4 singles) and Kaiqi Zhang (No. 5 singles) finished runnerup to Newsome.
2A-6 girls: Pasco's third straight title a first
DADE CITY — All but the girls No. 1 doubles final took place in Wednesday’s Class 2A, District 6 championship round, but it doesn’t matter. Host Pasco is a three-peat champion, a first for the school.
Pasco led district runnerup Hernando 16-14 with the No. 1 doubles match featuring players from both teams scheduled for today at 8 a.m. Pasco’s Mady Johnson and Sarah McCord take on Hernando’s Grace Curren and Shelby Marrero.
Curren and Marrero played two doubles matches and each played a singles final Wednesday, so neither could get in another match. According to the Florida High School Athletic Association, players are not allowed to play four matches in one day.
“It might be just one point. It depends who wins tomorrow,” Hernando coach Pete Lahey said of a potential one-point differential. “We beat (Pasco) 4-3 this season, but when it comes to district it doesn’t mean anything."
Pasco coach Don Charlick, in his seventh season coaching the girls following a 10-year run with the boys team from that school, thinks the goals and expectations of his program are changing.
“To three-peat here is a great accomplishment for these young ladies,” he said. “I’ve been building a program here for quite a while.”
Individually, Pasco and Hernando each claimed two singles victories while Nature Coast accounted for the other. Plus, Pasco’s Amanda Dee and Shelbie Timlake defeated Nature Coast’s Madeline Pickersgill and Dorothy Cash 6-1, 6-4 in No. 2 doubles.
Johnson won at No. 1 singles, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 over Curren. Pasco also won in No. 4 singles with Timlake beating Cash 6-1, 6-2.
Hernando won at Nos. 2 and 3 singles play with Marrero defeating McCord 6-2, 6-1, and Liza Marie Steinkamp routing Dee 6-0, 6-0.
The only final that did not include a Pasco player was No. 5 singles. Jennifer Sniffen of Nature Coast held off Hernando’s Caitlynn Nixon 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
2A-6 boys: Pirates, Sharks take spot in regionals
HOLIDAY — Pasco had never won a district title in boys tennis until last year. Now it’s two in a row after the Pirates pulled away from Nature Coast to take Class 2A, District 6 team honors at Anclote.
Holding a slim 11-10 edge through the first day, Pasco swept its four head-to-head meetings with Nature Coast on Wednesday and finished with 19 points to Nature Coast’s 12. Both teams advance to regionals. Ridgewood (6) was third with Gulf a point behind.
Even though the team title was locked in the final two matches took on great significance. Both the No. 1 singles and doubles champs earned an automatic trip to the 2A state individual tournament — and the only realistic hope with powerful Gainesville Eastside, which shut out Nature Coast and Pasco in last year’s regionals, standing in the way.
Nature Coast’s Jesse Dewitt made Pasco senior Austin Riddaugh earn his first trip to state in singles, overcoming a 6-0 loss in the first set by winning the second 6-2. Riddaugh however took the decider 6-1.
“I kept passing him in the second set so he changed his approach, and it caught me off guard,” said Dewitt, who had fought through a tough draw getting to the finals with wins over quality players Dylan Disbro (Ridgewood) and Victor Coa (Gulf).
Riddaugh and sophomore Joshua Morris will make a return trip in doubles after their 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Dewitt and Conner Schwefringhaus, who was hoping for some revenge on Morris after an epic Tuesday match in No. 2 singles won by the Pasco sophomore 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2.
Nature Coast coach Tom Brown said the 10-minute intermission after that second set slowed Schwefringhuas’ momentum, eventually hurting the Sharks’ hopes for a district crown. They were also bumped off track when Gulf’s Calvin Cao and Alex Walker knocked out Nature Coast early in No. 2 doubles.
Morris topped Ridgewood’s Alex Dziedzic 6-2, 6-1 for the No. 2 singles crown. Pasco got wins over Nature Coast from Alex Mitchell (No. 3) and Christian Yann (No. 4) then those two combined for the No. 2 doubles title against Dziedzic and Andrew McGilwa.
Jerry Bianculli gave the Sharks their lone title, coming back to beat Fivay’s Luke Calleja 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 5.
As excited as he was to win singles, Riddaugh wanted to finish off the job in doubles.
“I’m very grateful,” he said. “Just for the hard work Josh and I have put in together this year, I wanted it to pay off.”
Staff writer Matt Baker and correspondents Steve Lee and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.