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WESLEY CHAPEL — Tuesday’s Class 4A boys region semifinal hinged on two points at the net — one that dropped in, and one that fell short.
Both third-set points broke for Wharton, which knocked off Wiregrass Ranch 4-2.
“It was a fight,” Wildcats coach Glenn Alvarez said.
The No. 3 singles battle between Wharton senior Marcel Betancourt and Bulls freshman Alejandro Feliciano was the top match in a day filled with lop-sided results. Betancourt won the first set 7-5 and took a 5-2 lead in the second-set tiebreaker before Feliciano roared back, winning six of the next seven points to force a third set.
Feliciano took a 4-3 lead before Betancourt finally rallied. Wharton led 6-5 when Betancourt got two key breaks. His forehand kissed the net and fell in to force match point. Moments later, Feliciano’s return hit the top of the net but dropped short to end his comeback hopes.
“I don’t know how I did it,” said Betancourt, who remains unbeaten in No. 3 singles.
“I’m exhausted. …I’m, like, empty.”
The Wildcats, who have three state titles in the past four years, also picked up straight-set singles wins from Alek Crnogorac and Thomas Hwang. Wharton kept its state hopes alive when Sam Chaffin overcame stomach problems to team with Crnogorac in a three-set win at No. 1 doubles.
More Class 4A: After cruising to a 6-0 victory in the first set, Plant No. 1 Tristan Kaye started to feel the physical and mental effects of a sore left knee as he dropped the second set 2-6. But a clean slate and time to clear his head before the third was all he needed.
“You have to 10 minutes to regroup and get your thoughts together,” said Kaye, who added that it’s much easier to turn it around in between sets as opposed to the middle of them. “And I feel like the momentum is gone.”
Kaye stormed back to win the decisive set 6-0, capping a 4-1 victory for the Panthers over Plant City. Alec Josepher, Schuyler Welch and David Chittenden were the other winners for Plant.
Class 3A: At Lakeland, Chamberlain (8-5) sustained three excruciating singles defeats en route to a 4-3 loss to George Jenkins, which forfeited both doubles matches.
Sophomore Hunter O’Brien, the Chiefs’ No. 2 player, earned his team’s lone victory with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph against Shin Zaw. Sam Orchard, Nick Volk-Perez and Alex Strombom — the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 players, respectively — all fell in three sets. O’Brien and Harrison Fisher, District 9 champs at No. 1 doubles, still advance to the individual portion of next week’s 3A state tournament in Altamonte Springs.
• As they did in last week’s districts, the King Lions advanced without dropping a set, sweeping Bartow. Kiril Kirkov, Victor Ke, Chiran Witanachchi, Gregory Smith and Hengyi Wu each won in straight sets.
“Even when we were up big, we didn’t mess around,” coach Peter Adler said. “I’m proud, they played well, and they played like gentlemen.”
Class 2A: Robinson, which advanced to regionals for the first time since “forever and a day,” according to coach Lisa Derathe, continued its course into uncharted territory with a 4-0 win at Auburndale. After not winning any singles competitions in districts, Parker Place (6-2, 6-4), Grant Oken (6-2, 6-2) Chandler Luger (6-0, 6-3) and Enzo Peltz (6-2, 6-4) all took Nos. 1-4 singles. The win sets up a rematch with district rival Jesuit.
“We’ll just pray,” said Place, joking. “It will be tough.”
• In a day that featured several dominant performances, Jesuit added its own, finishing its match against Lake Wales in under an hour with a 5-0 sweep. The Tigers move on to the region finals for the third year in a row, thanks to victories from Jamie Sullivan, Jordan Nasser, David Pagliarulo, Palmer Evans and Maxwell Azzarelli. In total, the Tigers only dropped two games.
Class A: No. 1 Jake Gabay overcome a frustrating loss in the first set to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 as Tampa Prep swept Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic. Sam Rice, Alan Williams and Ralph Graver each won 6-0, 6-0, while No. 2 Giacomo Campus won with relative ease, 6-1, 6-2. The Terrapins last advanced to state in 2006.
• At Winter Haven, Berkeley Prep’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to All Saints’. Zach Ayers and Nikita Leonov won singles matches for the Bucs.
Class 4A: For her 17th birthday, teammates brought Plant No. 1 singles player Blair Martin a few boxes of designer cupcakes and dinner plans. In return, she gave them another flawless performance in the top spot Tuesday.
Martin, Gabby Rodriguez, Claire-Mitchell Andrews, Natalie Franklin and Lexi Biller, the latter two playing one spot higher than normal due to a teammate’s absence, made quick work of Plant City, only dropping one game collectively en route to sweeping their Class 4A regional.
“It was good to get the nerves out,” first-year coach Margaret Drumsta said.
• At Wiregrass Ranch, the Bulls and Wharton settled things in a little more than 60 minutes. Every match winner dropped no more than two games in the Wildcats’ 4-1 victory.
Some of the only drama came at No. 1 singles, when Wiregrass Ranch’s Star Makarome dropped two games in the second set. The freshman phenom had only lost one game all season but quickly recovered for a 6-0, 6-2 win over Wharton’s Vanina Iordanova.
Wharton dominated the rest to ease into the region finals. Diana Valencia (No. 2 singles), Andrea Valencia (No. 3) and Courtney Miles (No. 4) each took 6-1, 6-0 victories. Sophomore Kylie Paul only dropped two games in her triumph over Wiregrass senior Jordanyne Fye at No. 5 singles.
“Now the girls are flexing their muscles,” Wharton coach Lori Miles said.
Class 3A: Hillsborough’s season ended on the road with a 6-1 defeat to Polk County heavyweight Lakeland High, which collected 26 of a possible 28 points to dominate last week’s District 10 tournament. Terriers No. 3 player Jayash Ramanathan, who hasn’t lost a singles match in two seasons, accounted for her team’s lone triumph.
• King, which advanced to regionals a third straight year, fell 4-3 loss to Lakeland George Jenkins. No. 1 Rachael Adler will still advance to state thanks to her first-place finish at districts.
Class 2A: Though it moved up one classification, Holy Names duplicated last year’s results to sweep through Round 1 of regionals, defeating Lake Wales in under an hour. Daniela Nasser, Caroline Lozo, Korina Hernandez-Zimring, Sarah Port and Amanda Schifino each won their singles matches.
“I was pretty pumped, just went out there and played my game,” said Nasser, who has already qualified for state as an individual. She defeated fellow freshman Jessica Hignight 6-0, 6-1.
Class A: Fresh off the school’s first girls district championship, Carrollwood Day continued to set new highs, sweeping Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic. Victories from Jacquelyn and Lauren Fitz-Randolph, Sarah Yaffe and McKenzie List set CDS up for a rematch with Tampa Prep.
“How many coaches — I’m sure it’s a small list — are in their second year with two district titles and have been to states two years in a row?” said John Most, who coaches the boys while his wife, Susan, handles the girls. “That’s what I’m getting to experience.”
• Down 2-1 after singles play, Tampa Prep took both doubles points to rally for a 4-3 win over Winter Haven All Saints’. Julia Chieppe and Izabelle Baskette, the Terps’ only singles winners, defeated Taylor Oliver and Emily Bandyk 6-3, 6-0, and Meaghan DaSilva and Victoria Edwards beat Hayley Lockwood and Lauren Madonia 6-4, 6-4.
Staff writers Laura Keeley, Matt Baker and Joey Knight contributed to this report.
Photo: Carrollwood Day's Jacquelyn Fitz-Randolph