CASSELBERRY — Boca Ciega junior Dan Stefan needed a furious rally in his first trip to the state tournament to come away with a championship.
The only drama in his return trip Tuesday centered on whether the Pirates could sweep the individual honors.
Stefan cruised to the individual Class 2A singles title and teamed with Nikita Goldenberg to win the individual doubles crown without dropping a set at Red Bug Lake Park.
“I’d say it’s equally as tough, for sure,” Stefan said of repeating as state champ. “I just have more experience how the tournament's run, what I need to do. I have my rituals.”
Some of them — the pre-match bathroom break and mid-match pep talks — worked fine. But one didn’t, causing early hiccups in singles.
Stefan prefers to have a long warmup to break a sweat. But with Tuesday’s schedule, he only got in 15 minutes — and it showed.
He lost the first game, and Archbishop McCarthy’s Dimitri Salzmann broke him in the third.
“I realized I had to dictate the point,” said Stefan, who advances to play Gulliver Prep’s Chase Perez-Blanco in today’s overall state championship match.
Once Stefan started doing that, he didn’t drop another game. He broke Salzmann back, then used a gorgeous drop shot and a strong winner to pull ahead for good.
Stefan dropped only four points in the final three games to cruise to a 6-2, 6-0 win and his second straight state championship without losing a set.
Stefan and Goldenberg made it a clean sweep for Boca Ciega in the individual matches. The two blew past top seed Bishop Moore 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals, then beat the rain — and second-seeded Merritt Island — to earn the championship with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win.
The Pirates claimed Pinellas County’s only state titles Tuesday, but they almost had company.
East Lake senior Angel Deng suffered a heartbreaking loss to Newsome freshman Kylie Moulin in the tiebreaker of the 4A individual singles championship at Altamonte Springs’ Sanlando Park.
Deng, the tournament’s top seed, won the first set 6-3 and led 3-0 in the second before Moulin began blasting winners and forcing errors.
“I thought I was, like, done,” Moulin said.
Instead, she battled, forcing a third set and staving off triple match point to force the tiebreaker. Moulin then took the first three points to overcame Deng, fatigue and frustration and close out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6-3) victory.
“Thank God it’s over,” said Moulin, the tournament’s No. 2 seed.
Deng and doubles teammate Kim Herrock got some revenge later in the day. They coasted to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Moulin and Tess Studdiford in the semifinals. Deng and Herrock were scheduled to play in the state championship match Tuesday, but an afternoon downpour postponed it until today.
Junior Erica Oosterhout was the bright spot for Plant, which saw its streak of three consecutive 4A state championships end. Her 6-2, 6-2 victory over Orlando Dr. Phillips’ Alizee Michaud gave her the No. 1 singles title among teams and a showdown today with Moulin for the overall championship.
Oosterhout and Gabrielle Rodriguez are the top seed in No. 1 doubles and took a 6-1, 6-2 win in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.