Player of the year: Tristan Kaye, Sr., Plant
Why we picked him: Kaye was a big reason Plant returned to state for the first time since 2005. He was undefeated at No. 1 singles against Class 4A competition throughout the regular season and didn’t lose in districts or regionals. He overcame a sore left knee in the first round of regionals to pull out a three-set win over Plant City to save the Panthers from playing doubles. And Plant regrouped and used all of its collective strength to knock off Wharton in the region finals. Kaye won in straight sets, sending the Plant boys and girls to states together for the first time.
Most impressive accomplishment: Team-wise, Kaye points state, which was the first trip for any of the current Panthers. “At the time, it didn’t feel great, knowing we ended with losses, but looking back it’s nice knowing I was able to help take the team to states,” he said. Individually, Kaye said his win over Alonso’s Zackary Benham during the regular season was his most impressive. Trailing 4-1 in the first set, Kaye bounced back to win 6-4. And after dropping the second set 7-5, he found himself in another hole in the third set. Kaye rallied, though, to take six straight games for the 6-3 win. “It was pretty windy, the courts were extremely quick, so the ball skidded off really fast, but I was able to stay calm and fight through,” he said.
Did you know? Kaye was born overseas in Birmingham, about two hours northwest of London. His family moved to Florida when he was 12 after his father became a professor at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. …Kaye had played tennis since he was 5, but never in particularly hot climates. “It took quite a while to get used to,” he said of Florida. “The first day I tried to play, I felt sick after 30 minutes. But the more you play, the more you get used to it.
Future plans: Kaye, with a weighted GPA over 5.0, will play at Kenyon (Ohio) College next year. The Lords finished second at the NCAA Division III Tournament, which ended Wednesday.
Marcel Betancourt, Sr., Wharton: Undefeated on the year at No. 3 singles.
Eric Fitz-Randolph, Jr., Carrollwood Day: Class A-8 district champ at No. 1 singles.
Alec Josepher, So., Plant: 4A-6 district champ at No. 2 singles advanced to state team semifinals and No. 1 doubles semis with Kaye.
Kiril Kirkov, Jr., King: 3A-9 No. 1 singles district champ advanced to team semifinals at state.
Jordan Nasser, Jr., Jesuit: No. 2 singles player was undefeated until states and only lost once at No. 1 doubles in state semifinals.
Sam Chaffin, So., Wharton
Palmer Evans, Fr., Jesuit
Jake Gabay, Fr., Tampa Prep
Harrison Heysek, Jr., Plant City
Jamie Sullivan, Jr., Jesuit
Alonso: Zackary Benham; Berkeley Prep: Maximilian Borland, Zach Ayers, Nikita Leonov; Chamberlain: Joseph Fisher, Hunter O’Brien, Sam Orchard, Alex Strombom, Nicolas Volk-Perez; Jesuit: Max Azzarelli, David Pagliarulo; King: Victor Ke, Gregory Smith, Chiran Witanachchi, Hengyi Wu; Plant: David Chittenden, Max Kramer, Schuyler Welch; Plant City: Spencer Heysek, Justin Keel, Trent Lott; Robinson: Chandler Luger, Grant Oken, Enzo Peltz, Parker Place; Tampa Prep: Giacomo Campus, Ralph Grauer, Wes Merritt, Sam Rice, Alan Williams; Wharton: Alek Crnogorac, Thomas Hwang, Cesar Maeda
Coach of the year: Peter Adler, King
Adler guided King to the state tournament for the first time in recent memory (the FHSAA does not track team appearances, and the Lions were last in the region finals in 1998). Further, the starting five for King did not drop a set through district and region play.
Player of the year: Blair Martin, Jr., Plant
Why we picked her: Just like last year, Martin entered the state tournament undefeated at No. 1 singles, defeating the area’s best competition as the top player on the best Class 4A team. And, also like last season, Martin lost her first-round singles match at state (to the eventual winner, Winter Park’s Joulia Likhanskaia) but anchored Plant’s second-day surge with a win at No. 1 doubles with Gabby Rodriguez. The two finished undefeated at doubles for the year, and that win combined with a victory at No. 2 doubles put the Panthers in a tie for first place with Miami Dr. Krop, giving Plant its second straight team title and third in the past four seasons. The duo also claimed the overall doubles title by defeating the winners from the individual bracket.
Most impressive accomplishment: Though the results are nearly identical, Martin said the number of setbacks the team had to overcome to win the state title made it all the more rewarding. First, the Panthers had to break in a new coach, one that had only played tennis recreationally growing up in South Tampa. Martin had a new doubles partner in Rodriguez, one of two freshman starters. Then the day before the state tournament, Erica Oosterhout, who played at No. 4 singles as a freshman, tore her ACL.
Did you know? Tennis understandably takes up the lion’s share of Martin’s time, so additional hobbies and activities are at a minimum. But, while at school, Martin considers herself a bit of a math geek. “I like it because there’s one answer. You either get it or you don’t,” she said. After taking analysis and functions, along with AP chemistry, Martin will likely enroll in AP calculus her senior year.
Future plans: Martin, 17, has two major tournaments on her schedule this summer — USTA Girls’ 18 National Clay Court Championships in Memphis, Tenn., and Super National Hard Court Championships in San Diego. And starting July 1, college coaches will be able to call her. She hopes to have her list of five official visits finalized by the end of the summer.
Jacquelyn Fitz-Randolph, Fr., Carrollwood Day: Class A-8 district champ made it to the state final of the team No. 1 singles.
Natalie Franklin, Sr., Plant: County’s only individual state champion, at No. 4 singles, and half of the state champion No. 2 doubles pair.
Korina Hernandez-Zimring, 8th, Academy of the Holy Names: Won the No. 3 singles 2A-10 title in straight sets and advanced to the state semifinals as an individual and at No. 2 doubles.
Daniela Nasser, Fr., Academy of the Holy Names: 2A-10 No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champion.
Gabby Rodriguez, Fr., Plant: Class 4A-6 No. 2 singles district champion and half of the undefeated overall doubles state champions.
Rachael Adler, Jr., King
Claire-Mitchell Andrews, Sr., Plant
Lauren Fitz-Randolph, 7th, Carrollwood Day
Grace Korta, So., Steinbrenner
Courtney Miles, Sr., Wharton
Academy of the Holy Names: Caroline Lozo, Sarah Port, Amanda Schifino; Carrollwood Day: McKenzie List, Madeline Peek, Sarah Yaffe; Hillsborough: Alexis Deriberprey, Amanda Glenz, Jayashwi Ramanathan; King: Susan Huang; Newsome: Alaina Ewing, Morgan Trask; Plant: Alexandria Biller, Erica Oosterhout; Plant City: Taylor Ballantine, Lauren Michael, Margaret Peterson; Sickles: Victoria Diaz, Sarah Hartman; Tampa Prep: Izabelle Baskette, Alexandra Benbadis, Julia Chieppe, Meaghan DaSilva, Victoria Edwards; Wharton: Vanina Iordanova, Kylie Paul, Diana Valencia, Andrea Valencia
Coach of the Year: Margaret Drumsta, Plant
She may not have the most conventional background for a tennis coach (a Plant grad, Drumsta played softball for South Carolina), but Drumsta rallied her team to win a second straight state title. Not even a last-second injury that forced a lineup change rattled the Panthers.