Though it doesn’t officially count for anything, Plant approached its last match of the year as a chance to validate its success after tying for the Class 4A team championship Tuesday.
“We wanted to show everyone we earned that state championship,” coach Margaret Drumsta said. “It wasn’t key draws or lucky points. We earned it.”
If anyone doubted the Panthers, well, Blair Martin and Gabby Rodriguez gave them another victory as counter evidence. They took the No. 1 overall doubles title over the Everglades pair of Gabriella Castaneda and Samantha Gonzalo 6-2, 6-4 Wednesday in Altamonte Springs.
“From the first serve on,” Drumsta said, “Gabby was absolutely money.”
Class 3A: In King’s first trip to the state tournament for the first time since anyone can remember, No. 5 singles player Hengyi Wu won two matches to earn a spot in today’s finals. And he did it in three-set fashion both times, taking the first 6-1, 6-7 (3-6), 6-4 and the second 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. He faces Naples Barron Collier’s Alan Sweet in the final.
No. 1 Kiril Kirkov also put points on the board for King, winning his first match 6-2, 6-1 before losing to Martin County’s Michael Rinaldi 6-1, 6-0. The Lions’ Nos. 2 and 3 players, Victor Ke and Chiran Witanachchi, took their opponents to three sets before eventually falling.
“If I had a dime for every three-set match …” coach Peter Adler said. “But the boys have been delighted to represent the school at this level.
Adler’s daughter, Rachael, qualified as an individual for King’s girls. She won her first match 6-3, 6-2 before bowing out 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
Class A: Carrollwood Day’s doubles duo of Jacquelyn and Lauren Fitz-Randolph avenged last year’s state finals loss with an opening-round victory over the same pair, Gainesville P.K. Yonge’s Jazz Whittaker and Madison Sagas. The Fitz-Randolph sisters won 6-2, 6-4 and will play in the No. 1 semifinals today.
Jacquelyn, a freshman, will play Whittaker in the finals of the No. 1 singles bracket before taking the court for doubles. To get to the championship game, she beat Annette Sullivan of Miami Ransom 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, then the No. 1 from Boca Raton Saint Andrews, Caroline Hsu, 6-0, 6-1. Saint Andrew’s happens to have a fairly well known coach — former world No. 1 Chris Evert.
“She was extremely congratulatory because Jacque had beaten their big rival in the first round,” said John Most, who runs the CDS program along with his wife, Susan. “It was pretty neat.”
The Patriots only lose one senior — Madeline Peek — and will return their other starters, sophomore Sarah Yaffe and freshman Mckenzie List. Junior Eric Fitz-Randolph, who lost his opening-round match in the boys No. 1 singles individual competition, will be back as well.
“Basically we’re thrilled for the future, with girls getting a chance to experience state, it’s huge; now they know what it’s all about,” Most said. “They’re building a foundation and raising expectations.”