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State tennis: Plant's top doubles team ends partnership with one more title

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Fri. April 19, 2013 | Joel Anderson

If there’s an easier way to win a state championship, Plant doubles partners Blair Martin and Gabby Rodriguez never figured it out.

In their final high school match together, Martin and Rodriguez defeated Parkland Douglas’ Kellyn Abbanat and Kaela Bynoe 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) in the Class 4A overall doubles final Friday.

“They were both so tired from yesterday,” Plant coach Margaret Drumsta said. “But (they) came through. I told them they are the defending champs and (they) are here to represent.”

Only a day after twice rallying from one-set deficits to win the team doubles title, Martin and Rodriguez basically went the distance to complete their undefeated run through the state tournament at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

They were matched up against Abbanat and Bynoe, who won the 4A individual doubles title Thursday in a similarly grueling three-set match against a team from Orlando Dr. Phillips.

But few doubles partners had as demanding a schedule — with as high of stakes — as Martin and Rodriguez did during the 4A state tournament.

After their team singles matches in the Thursday morning finals, which Rodriguez won at No. 3 and Martin lost at No. 1, the Panthers’ top doubles team had to regroup for a run to the team championship.

They dropped the first sets against both Dr. Krop in the semifinals and Cypress Bay in the finals. Regardless, Martin and Rodriguez overcame the early losses and won their way to the team doubles title, which narrowly clinched a third straight team championship for Plant.

The Panthers finished with 12 points, just one ahead of Cypress Bay’s 11.

Martin and Rodriguez’s triumphant finale Friday puts a close to their championship partnership, which includes two straight 4A team and overall doubles titles, and a USTA state doubles title.

Their victories have enabled Plant’s tennis team to be the only girls team from Hillsborough County to win a state championship in the 2012-13 academic year, with only softball and track left to go.

They’ll celebrate with the usual: a brief rest, a raucous bus trip back to Tampa and dinner at Matoi Sushi.

“I told them I’d buy them sushi if they pulled it off,” Drumsta said.

Joel Anderson can be reached at janderson@tampabay.com or on Twitter @jdhometeam.

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