Land O’Lakes’ boys team is headed to the Class 3A region final after squeaking by Ocala Forest 4-3 on Tuesday.
“It’s exciting,” coach Jasalyn Gerazounis said.
Two of Land O’Lakes’ victories came from East Carolina commit Colin Roller. The senior’s 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 1 singles set the tone early, and he teamed with David Dollbaum to win No. 1 doubles, too.
Roller took the second-to-last point in the match with a between-the-legs shot.
“That was a nice highlight,” Gerazounis said.
Tyler Sanders only dropped three games in taking No. 4 singles, and Dollbaum added a 6-1, 7-5 victory at No. 2 singles.
The Gators’ trip to Thursday’s region championship has Gerazounis excited about her program’s future. Aside from Roller, all of the team’s players are freshmen and sophomores.
“Hopefully it gave them a lot of motivation for next year,” Gerazounis said.
More 3A: Gainesville dispatched visiting Springstead 7-0.
“We just played a really phenomenal team,” first-year Springstead coach Joe Nicolai said. “We were able to win a couple of games, but in the end, they were just too much.”
Top-seeded Carl Zee fell in straight sets to Hurricanes junior Cole Fiegel, 6-1, 6-2. The loss set the tone for the entire match for Springstead (14-3).
The Eagles do have a bright future to look forward to. The team does not have a senior in its lineup.
“At least now they see where they need to be as far as their game is concerned to get to the next level,” Nicolai said. “It was a very good learning experience for us.”
Class 4A: 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 Okungbowa family gave Wiregrass Ranch both of its victories. Courage, a junior and state qualifier, remained perfect with a 6-0, 6-0 win in No. 1 singles. His younger brother, Foresight, lost only three games to claim victory at No. 5 singles.
Class 2A: Pasco, coming off its first district title, cruised to a 4-0 win over visiting Crystal River.
No. 1 Austin Riddaugh, No. 2 Josh Morris, No. 3 Christian Yann and No. 4 Alex Mitchell won. Mitchell finished while Tim Dombrowski took a 7-6 lead over Ryan Johnson. That No. 5 singles match was never concluded and the two doubles matches were not played.
“As soon as we got four, Tim was winning his first set,” Pasco coach Mickey Wilks said. “We let him finish out the set then we called it after that because you don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
• One season after reaching state, Nature Coast fell 7-0 to Gainesville Eastside in the first round of regionals.
Senior Zenon Kouts, who is headed to state because of his No. 1 singles victory at districts, fell in a tough match to Eastside senior Frazier Springfield. Springfield dominated the return game for a 6-4, 6-1. win
“(Springfield) kind of showed us what we have to work on,” Nature Coast coach Tom Brown said. “He was a definite No. 1 who pinpointed Zenon’s weaknesses. …
“As far as experience goes, it’s going to be great. This will be a motivator for us. (Eastside) was good, as good any team we played all year.”
Class 4A: The boys needed more than four hours to send Wharton to Thursday’s region final, but the girls settled it 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.
“You can’t have a perfect match,” said Makarome, who qualified for state as an individual with last week’s district championship.
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.
The victory wiped out the need for doubles matches and proved the Wildcats’ girls program is getting closer to the boys’ success.
“Now the girls are flexing their muscles,” Wharton coach Lori Miles said.
Class 3A: Land O’Lakes ended its season with a 4-1 road loss to Ocala Forest .
“They played hard,” coach Samantha Taylor said. “It was close — not reflective of the score.”
The Gators’ lone win came at No. 5 singles with a 7-6, 6-1 victory by freshman Anne Schwartz. Senior Jamie Giacinto lost a close match at No. 4.
Land O’Lakes also battled health issues. Top singles player Linzi Arndt fell ill at school Monday but competed hard Tuesday. The Gators will graduate only two seniors, and Taylor said her team has the talent to keep improving.
“They have the drive,” Taylor said. “As we get more age on the team, it’s going to help a lot.”
• At Zephyrhills, Taylor Jordan is no longer Citrus’ best-kept secret now that coach Scott Waters has pointed out what he termed “a Citrus factoid.”
Playing No. 5 singles, Jordan clinched the region win by defeating Alyssa Angelo 6-3, 6-0. That gave the district runnerup Hurricanes a 4-1 lead en route to a 5-2 win over Zephyrhills, winner of two district titles in the past three seasons.
“So goes Taylor, so goes Citrus High,” said Waters, alluding to Taylor’s record of 12-2, matching the team’s overall mark.
Sarah Vande Berg, a three-time district champion and three-time state qualifier, had the Bulldogs’ lone win. The senior No. 1 beat Sarah Labrador 6-0, 6-2.
“It would have stunk to lose,” she said.
Melanie Dodd won her No. 2 singles match 6-2, 6-0 over Sydney Owens, Jackie Ear defeated Hannah Ungerer 6-3, 6-2 at No. 3, and No. 4 Lena Martone topped Amanda Smith 6-1, 6-1 before Taylor’s clinching win.
“You never know what to expect,” Waters said. “They’re district champions and you never take anything like that lightly.”
Class 2A: A week after Pasco’s tennis teams made history by winning district titles in the same season, both teams advanced in Class 2A regionals Tuesday.
“This is pretty cool,” Pasco girls coach Don Charlick said. “It just shows you want can happen when the right chemistry and the right people come together.”
The girls edged Gainesville Eastside when the No. 5 singles match was forfeited due to Tatyana Marin’s right calf cramp. The Pirates’ Sarah McCord led 5-7, 7-6, 1-0.
“A win is a win, so I can’t complain,” McCord said.
Four of five singles matches and both doubles were over with the score tied at 3 as Marin and McCord played on. The gathering crowd, however, dispersed soon after Marin buckled over.
The visiting Rams took a 2-0 lead, then No. 3 Amanda Dempsey got Pasco back in contention with a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win over Murielle Le Maire, and No. 4 Norah Taylor tied the team score at two with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Amaleah Mirti.
The Pirates were forced to rally once more as Mehan and Sourakov bested Pelham and Dempsey 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles. Johnson and Taylor then teamed up for a 6-2, 6-0 win over Mirti and Angie Liu at No. 2 doubles to set the stage for the final match of the day.
• Nature Coast pushed Crystal River to the edge, but fell 4-3.
Delanie McCabe and Mallorie Pickersgill will both be moving on to state for the Sharks (11-3) after winning No. 1 singles and doubles, respectively, at districts.
On Tuesday, McCabe lost 6-1, 6-4 to senior Kayla Papp. While Pickersgill, a junior like McCabe, won at No. 2 6-3, 6-3 over senior Ashley Allen, the Nature Coast tandem was dominated in doubles 6-3, 6-1.
“Not many people gave us a chance,” Nature Coast coach John Downey said, “but I thought we played well all season and peaked right before district. Some matches you just get outplayed.”
Correspondents Steve Lee and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.
Photo: Pasco's Austin Riddaugh