WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch’s boys tennis team is no longer perfect.
Now the Bulls can worry about more important things — like clinching their second trip to state in three seasons.
Wiregrass Ranch dropped its first set of the spring and its first individual match but still cruised to a 4-1 win over Plant in Tuesday’s opening round of the Class 4A region tournament.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Bulls coach Dave Wilson said. “Nobody wanted to be the first guy that lost a set, let alone a match.”
That dubious distinction fell to freshman Niels van Dam. He trailed training partner Thomas Harmon 7-5, 5-0 in No. 3 singles when the
Bulls wrapped up their team victory and third trip past the first round of regionals in the past four seasons.
The rest of Wiregrass Ranch’s powerhouse team had no problem against the Panthers.
Defending state runnerup and FAMU signee Courage Okungbowa dropped the first game but rolled after that for a 6-1, 6-2 win over Alec Josepher in No. 1 singles. Agustin Moreno had a slightly easier time in No. 2 singles, blowing past Robert Welch 6-2, 6-0.
The biggest key was the Bulls’ depth. Alejandro Feliciano and Foresight Okungbowa shut out their opponents in the final two singles matches to help Wiregrass Ranch improve to 19-0.
“I think that’s where our depth will make a difference down the road,” Wilson said.
Wilson admitted to feeling more anxious about Tuesday’s match than usual. He worried about his team’s state hopes all day, instead of wondering about where his team would eat afterward, as he occasionally did throughout the Bulls’ nearly flawless regular season.
“The luxury of doing that is over with,” Wilson said.
Wiregrass Ranch hosts Wharton on Thursday. The Wildcats ended the Bulls’ season in the first round of regionals last spring.
Mustangs out: Mitchell bowed out to one of the state’s top programs, failing to win a match at Gainesville in the 3A region semifinals.
The Hurricanes finished third at last year’s Class 3A state tournament.
The Mustangs have one player remaining — freshman Dan Lukish — who clinched a spot at state after winning the No. 1 singles title at last week’s 3A-6 district tournament.
Bulls bounced: Plant won four singles matches, beating Class 4A foe Wiregrass Ranch at Cal Dixon Park in Tampa.
The only blemish for Plant came in the No. 1 match as Blair Martin lost to sophomore Star Makarome 6-1, 6-2. Makarome was a state runnerup last year.
It was a surprising defeat for Martin, a Fuman signee and defending region champion who has rarely been challenged during her previously undefeated senior season.
The coaches gave Martin and Makarome a chance to end the match after it was apparent Plant would win out. But both girls decided to play on, getting the sort of test they rarely face against other opponents.
“It was a tough day, a tough loss,” Martin said. “We all have our off days. But I’ve got this under my belt and it can only make me stronger for Thursday’s match.”
Gators fall: Land O’Lakes ended its season with a 5-0 loss at Class 3A Ocala Forest.
The Gators finished runnerup at districts for the third year in a row, but the young squad couldn’t advance farther. All of Land O’Lakes’ top players are returners, including two freshmen and sophomore Kavya Avancha at No. 1 singles.
“We did gain a lot of experience by going up there and finding out what it’s all about in the postseason,” Gators coach Karen Turman said.
Land O’Lakes will still be represented at state. Avancha and junior Cori Arndt qualified after winning the Class 3A, District 6 championship in No. 1 doubles.
Staff writer Joel Anderson contributed to this report.