MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
TAMPA — When first-year Robinson coach Lisa Derathe looked at the calendar at the beginning of the season, she noticed that the first day of the district tournament fell on her birthday. She asked her boys team for just one present: a Class 2A-10 runnerup finish.
At the time, she didn’t realize that her mother would die the Thursday before the tournament or that she would have to cancel practice as she traveled to North Carolina. But Derathe returned to Tampa on Sunday, and her team gave her what she asked for Tuesday on the Hillsborough Community College courts.
“They pulled it off for me,” said a beaming Derathe, who estimated that it had been “forever and a day” since Robinson last advanced to regionals.
No. 2 doubles, won via forfeit, was the only first-place finish for Robinson, which finished with 11 points. Derathe, though pointed to the No. 2 singles player, freshman Grant Oken, who won his opening-round match in a three-set upset, as a catalyst for the rest of the Knights’ success over the two-day tournament.
District champion Jesuit swept all five singles competitions and won at No. 1 doubles. No Tiger lost more than two games, as Jamie Sullivan (6-0, 6-0), Jordan Nasser (6-0, 6-0), David Pagliarulo (6-0, 6-1), Palmer Evans (6-1, 6-1) and Maxwell Azzarelli (6-2, 6-0) were all victorious. Sullivan and Nasser teamed up to take their doubles match 6-1, 6-0. Jesuit finished with 20 points.
On the girls side, the youngest members of Holy Names won their matches at the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 singles and No. 1 doubles as the Jaguars took the district title for the third year in a row with 24 points. Freshman Daniela Nasser won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1, and freshman Caroline Lozo and eighth grader Korina Hernandez-Zimring swept their matches 6-0, 6-0. Lakewood, which won at No. 4 (junior Alexis Dangar) and 5 singles (junior Anjelica Williams), came in second with 17 points.
Though Lozo is a freshman, it’s her third year on the AHN team. And it’s the third year in a row she’s been crowned a district champion.
“I’ve made an effort to hit more spin,” said Lozo, who added that it becomes more fun each year she wins. “I hit more topspin on my shots and just grind to get every shot back that I can, and just be a wall back there.”
Class 4A, District 6: The last few years, the boys tennis teams at Plant and Wharton have turned their annual district showdown into high drama.
There have been rain delays, tiebreakers and contentious plays that always seemed to come down to the final doubles match of the tournament.
Tuesday was different.
It came down to the second-to-last doubles match. And for a change, Plant closed it out in less than dramatic fashion.
Schuyler Welch and David Chittenden clinched the Panther’s district title with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles, just a few minutes before Plant’s No. 1 doubles team won 6-3, 6-3 to make the make the final margin 19-15 over the Wildcats in the 4A-6 tournament at Hunter’s Green Golf and Country Club.
Last year, Wharton rallied to win the last two doubles matches, forcing a tiebreaker it won three days later to deny the Panthers. Wharton again needed to win both doubles matches Tuesday to force a tiebreaker.
“It feels awesome,” Welch said. “Doubles has been our downfall the past few years. But this changes everything. This gives us a lot of confidence now.”
Plant’s Tristan Kaye (No. 1), Alec Josepher (No. 2) and Chittenden (No. 4) all won singles titles.
The Plant girls made it a sweep, winning every singles and doubles title for the second straight year and outscoring second-place Wharton 21-12.
The Panthers, unbeaten this season, were untouchable. Blair Martin, Gabby Rodriguez, Claire Mitchell Andrews, Erica Oosterhout and Natalie Franklin did not drop a set in winning titles.
The Panthers, Class 4A state champions a year ago, outscored the competition 180-12 in singles, with Oosterhout winning every game at No. 3 singles.
Class 4A, District 5: Wiregrass Ranch boys tennis coach David Wilson knew what was coming.
When players asked to check the time on his cell phone, he readied himself for the inevitable — a celebratory shower from the drink cooler.
The Bulls earned their third consecutive district crown — and first against Hillsborough County opponents — by winning four of the five singles championships and both doubles titles at Riverhills Country Club.
Plant City’s boys and girls were both the runnersup to the Bulls.
The Raiders’ lone boys title came from Trent Lott, who lost the first set but battled back for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Eric Busch in No. 5 singles.
Plant City placed second in every other event. Spencer Heysek (No. 2 singles) and Justin Keel (No. 3) suffered three-set losses in the finals.
Wiregrass Ranch’s Courage Okungbowa took the No. 1 singles title with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Harrison Heysek and teamed with Busch to finish first in No. 1 doubles, too.
The Raiders’ girls qualified for regionals but fell one short of Wiregrass’ 16 points.
Lauren Michael took Plant City’s only singles title with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Wiregrass’ Tiffany Garner in No. 4 singles. Margaret Peterson (No. 2) and Taylor Ballantine (No. 3) were runnersup individually but together earned the No. 2 doubles title 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Newsome’s Alaina Ewing was the No. 2 singles winner and teamed with sister Savannah to finish second to Wiregrass in No. 1 doubles. Newsome’s Morgan Trask beat Ballantine, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) to win at No. 3.
Wiregrass freshman Star Makarome lived up to her name with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Durant’s Alexis Quinn to win at No. 1 and remain undefeated.
Class 3A, District 9: King was crowned champion on both the girls and boys side, as the Lions swept all five boys singles spots en route to 23 total points at Hillsborough Community College. Chamberlain (21) was second for the boys and will also advance.
“A pretty successful day at the office,” said King coach Peter Adler of wins by Kiril Kirkov (6-2, 6-0), Victor Ke (6-4, 6-2), Chiran Witanachchi (6-4, 6-1), Gregory Smith (6-2, 6-1) and Hengyi Wu (6-1, 6-4).
Adler’s daughter, junior Rachael Adler, won at No. 1 singles 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-1 to clinch her first state tournament berth. No. 5 Susan
Huang (6-4, 6-3) was King’s other singles winner. Hillsborough, second in the district, collected wins from Alexis Deriberprey (6-2, 6-3), Jayashwi Ramanathan (6-2, 6-0) and Amanda Glenz (6-0, 7-5) in positions 2-4. Sickles’ No. 1 doubles team of Sarah Hartman and Victoria Diaz also advanced to state with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Staff writers John C. Cotey and Matt Baker contributed to this report.
Photo: Newsome's Alaina Ewing, who won at No. 2 singles in the 4A-5 tournament.