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Sat. April 12, 2014 | Matt Baker | Email

State tennis preview

TAMPA — When Caroline Lozo made her first trip to the state tournament as a wide-eyed seventh grader, she took the experience for granted.

“I didn’t necessarily know what going to states meant,”  she said. “It was my first year. I assumed we would go every year, not realizing how difficult it was to win districts and regionals.”

It’s been difficult, but not impossible for Lozo and her Academy of the Holy Names teammates. Now a junior, Lozo will be making her fifth trip to state next week when she heads to the Class 2A tournament with her Jaguars.

Lozo said her first trip was filled with nerves and shyness. She had played in big USTA events before, but this was different. Instead of playing for herself, she was representing her team.

The pressure — and the opposing talent — got to her. She lost in the first round in No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, winning a combined five games.

“I remember it so clearly, too,” she said.

Lozo continued to improve in the coming years. Instead of relying on her go-for-broke power that resulted in lots of winners and almost as many errors, she added finesse. She became more conservative and patient, willing to let her opponents make mistakes.

She made it to the final round in No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles at state last spring, and Lozo showed last week that she’s gained experience and resilience along the way. A day after surrendering a big lead in the region semifinal, she earned a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles to lead her team back to state, again.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Lozo said.

State tennis tournament
Format:
Day 1, first round starts at 8 a.m. Day 2, team singles finals start at 8 a.m., followed by team doubles semifinals and finals, individual singles finals and individual doubles semifinals and finals. Day 3, overall singles championship at 8 a.m. followed by overall doubles championship.

Class 4A
When
: Monday-Wednesday
Where: Sanlando Park, Altamonte Springs
Local team: Plant girls
No. 1 singles champs: Newsome’s Kylie Moulin, Newsome’s Garrett Watson, Plant’s Erica Oosterhout, Wharton’s Sam Chaffin, East Lake’s Angel Deng
No. 1 doubles: Newsome’s Moulin and Tess Studdiford, Plant’s Oosterhout and Gabby Rodriguez, Wharton’s Chaffin and Alek Crnogorac, East Lake’s Deng and Kim Herrock.
Of note: This is Deng’s third trip to state and she was the Times’ Pinellas Player of the Year as a freshman at Countryside and last season at East Lake — she did not play high school tennis as a sophomore. Deng and Herrock are playing doubles together for the first time this season. …Plant is gunning for its fourth consecutive state championship — a feat only eight teams in state history have ever completed. The Panthers dropped only two matches in regionals. …Chaffin reached the individual semifinals at state last year. He has signed to play at Florida Gulf Coast University …TennisRecruiting ranks Moulin a five-star freshman and one of the nation’s top 100 players in her class.

Class 3A
When:
Wednesday-Friday
Where: Sanlando Park, Altamonte Springs
Local teams: King boys, Wiregrass Ranch boys, Springstead boys  
No. 1 singles: King’s Vignesh Bhethanabotla, King’s Sneha Sathish, Freedom’s Jonathan Heidenberg, Land O’Lakes’ Kavya Avancha, Largo’s Alexis Franco
No. 1 doubles: King’s Bhethanabotla and Gregory Smith, King’s Sathish and Kathy Tian, Chamberlain’s Joseph Fisher and Hunter O’Brien, Wiregrass Ranch’s Brianna Miah and Tiffany Garner, Largo’s Franco and Laurel Wagner
Of note: Springstead is not only making its first appearance at state, but the Eagles have never won a district championship in the school’s 33-year history. …Largo’s Franco pulled off a mild upset to reach state. She defeated Lakewood Ranch’s Ashley Bongart, who is ranked higher in the USTA Florida junior rankings. Franco, a sophomore, is playing high school tennis for the first time. Her doubles partner, Laurel Wagner, was a district champion at No. 2 singles. …Wiregrass Ranch won its fifth straight district championship and swept through the regionals. …Sathish is also a standout cross country runner; she placed 13th at the 3A state meet in November. …Heidenberg is committed to play at SMU. …Bhethanabotla earned a win at No. 3 singles last year to help King finish tied for fourth as a team.

Class 2A
When:
Monday-Wednesday
Where: Red Bug Lake Park, Casselberry
Local teams: Jesuit boys, Nature Coast boys, Holy Names girls, Pasco girls  
No. 1 singles: Jesuit’s Palmer Evans, Holy Names’ Caroline Lozo, Nature Coast’s Jesse DeWitt, Hernando’s Grace Curren, Gulf’s Alex Walter, Anclote’s Sierra Yanez, Boca Ciega’s Dan Stefan
No. 1 doubles: Jesuit’s Evans and Max Azzarelli, Holy Names’ Lozo and Olivia Rivas, Nature Coast’s DeWitt and Conner Schwefringhaus, Pasco’s Mady Johnson and Shelbie Timlake, Gulf’s Walter and Aakash Panjabi, Hudson’s Dominique Cirnigliaro and Marisa Maksymkow, Boca Ciega’s Stefan and Nikita Goldenberg
Of note: Pasco and Nature Coast are making their first state tournament appearances. …Boca Ciega’s Stefan is trying to repeat as a state champion. The junior won the Class 3A title last season. He is 14-0 in singles matches and ranked No. 1 in the USTA Florida junior rankings. Stefan and Goldberg, an Admiral Farragut transfer, are playing doubles together for the first time this season. …Jesuit dominated its region matches in two easy victories. Its Nos. 4 and 5 players lost only one game in both rounds between them.

Class A
When:
Wednesday-Friday
Where: Red Bug Lake Park, Casselberry
Local teams: Tampa Prep girls
No. 1 singles: Clearwater Central Catholic’s Parker Hayslett, Academy at the Lakes’ Cheyenne Lilienthal, Canterbury’s Evan Holvoet
No. 1 doubles: Tampa Prep’s Nicolas de Quesada and Danny Palmer, Tampa Prep’s Izabelle Baskette and Paige Leavy
Of note: Holvoet had to defeat a very good player in Shorecrest’s Peter Litsky to reach the individual state tournament. His team did not advance to regionals, so he’s had the week off before state. …The same is true for Hayslett. He defeated Berkeley Prep’s Gray Aloian 6-4, 6-3 in the district final but the Marauder boys did not make regionals. …Tampa Prep is back at state for the first time as a team since 2006. Paige Leavy starred at regionals in No. 1 singles, and freshman Allie Blair had two big wins: a 6-0, 6-0 win in the semifinals and the match-sealing victory in the finals.

Staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.

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