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Sat. May 31, 2014 | Matt Baker | Email

Girls

Player of the year: Erica Oosterhout, Jr., Plant

Why we picked her: Oosterhout had no problem sliding into the role as Plant’s top player, replacing three-time player of the year Blair Martin. “Now that I’m a junior, I was kind of the person that others looked up to,” Oosterhout said. “It was my responsibility to get the other teammates pumped up and ready to go.” A year after reaching the state semifinals in No. 2 singles, Oosterhout dominated. She dropped only nine games at state to cruise to the Class 4A team No. 1 singles title. Oosterhout topped Newsome’s Kylie Moulin for the overall singles championship and teamed with Gabby Rodriguez to win the overall doubles title at state. That success led Oosterhout’s Panthers to finish tied for second in 4A.

Did you know? Oosterhout ramped up her outside tournaments this year, gravitating toward more events with professionals and fewer USTA junior tournaments. She spent last week in Hilton Head, S.C., playing in a $10,000 tournament at the Van Der Meer Tennis Center. Those events have only one match per day, which is nice for her game but tougher for her academics. “I’ve been missing a lot of school. That’s kind of rough,” Oosterhout said. “But these tournaments are awesome.” 

Future plans: Oosterhout is undecided about playing for the Panthers in her final year at Plant. After that, she plans to go to college for at least a year before considering a pro career. “We’re going to see what happens next year, especially since I’m going to focus more on tennis,” Oosterhout said. 

First team

Kylie Moulin, Fr., Newsome: Class 4A, District 6 champ upset East Lake’s Angel Deng to win the individual singles state championship and reached the state semifinals in doubles.

Gabby Rodriguez, Jr., Plant: State semifinalist at No. 2 singles teamed with Oosterhout to cruise to the 4A overall doubles state title.

Caroline Lozo, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names: Reached the 2A semifinals in singles and doubles in her fifth trip to state; led her Jaguars to a fifth-place finish.

Paige Leavy, So., Tampa Prep: Terrapins’ top player took Tampa Prep back to state for the first time since 2006; finished second in Class A at team No. 1 singles.

Grace Korta, Sr., Steinbrenner: Mercer recruit lost to Oosterhout in the district championship but helped the Warriors reach the region tournament as a team.

Second team

Sneha Sathish, So., King

Tess Studdiford, Fr., Newsome

Monica Phipps, So., Plant

Kathy Tian, Jr., King

Kylie Paul, Sr., Wharton

Honorable mention:

Academy of the Holy Names: Caitlin Neal, Olivia Rivas

Armwood: Jadelyn Suddeth

Blake: McCaley Mezrah

Chamberlain: Shannon Nicolas

Durant: Morgan Trask

Newsome: Julia Staddon

Plant: Lauren Corcoran, Korina Hernandez

Riverview: Jamie Tablante, Toni Tablante

Robinson: Bianca Dyer, Alex Rice

Steinbrenner: Maria Mischenko, Kiernan O’Keefe

Strawberry Crest: Morenike Fashoro, Suryanshi Singh

Tampa Prep: Izabelle Baskette

Wharton: Gabby Paul, Andrea Valencia

Coach of the year 

Chris Cary, Tampa Prep. After several years of close calls, Cary’s Terrapins won their first region championship since 2006. Cary guided a Tampa Prep team with only one senior back to the Class A state tournament, where it tied for fourth. 

Boys

Player of the year: Sam Chaffin, Sr., Wharton

Why we picked him: There’s a reason Chaffin earned the top singles seed at the Class 4A state tournament and was honored by the district as the county’s top player. He dominated in his final high school season and won the Class 4A, District 9 championship in singles and doubles. He finished his career with two straight state semifinals appearances in singles. His best memories, he said, were those spent with his team, including four-year doubles partner Alek Crnogorac. “There’s no specific match — it was more of the team,” Chaffin said.

Did you know? Even when Chaffin isn’t practicing tennis, he spends most of his time outdoors. He bikes often at Flatwoods Park and enjoys swimming. “I love being in the water,” Chaffin said. “I like going to the beach.” 

Future plans: Chaffin has signed with Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers as a three-star college recruit. He chose the Eagles because of its coaches, new campus and close proximity to home. His major and career plans are undecided, although he’s considering studying business. 

First team

Palmer Evans, Jr., Jesuit: Top player for the region champions and earned the 2A, District 9 title with a three-set victory over Tampa Catholic’s Richard Golinello.

Jonathan Heidenberg, Sr., Freedom: SMU recruit won the Class 3A, District 9 crown and took the Patriots to the region tournament.

Stephen Goldman, Sr., Gaither: Narrowly missed upsetting Heidenberg for a trip to states out of one of the area’s toughest districts.

Vignesh Bhethanabotla, So., King: Led the Lions to 3A state tournament after winning district titles at No. 1 singles and doubles; made state semifinals at team No. 1 singles.

Alec Josepher, Sr., Plant: Starred at No. 1 singles to take the Panthers to the 4A region finals.

Second team

Richard Golinello, Sr., Tampa Catholic

Gregory Smith, Sr., King

Garrett Watson, Sr., Newsome

Alek Crnogorac, Sr., Wharton

Michael Marinskiy, So., Robinson

Honorable mention 

Berkeley Prep: Gray Aloian

Bloomingdale: Andrew Pudas

Chamberlain: Hunter O’Brien, Joseph Fisher

East Bay: Matthew Bell, Mark Bell

Hillsborough: Jake Kennard

Jesuit: Max Azzarelli, Alex Crosby, Gantt Meredith

King: Nicholas Miljus

Plant: Robert Welch, Thomas Harmon

Plant City: Nick Gorman

Robinson: Grant Oken

Sickles: Ryan Walsh

Tampa Prep: Nicolas de Quesada, Danny Palmer

Coach of the year

Joe Curtis, Jesuit. Curtis’ Tigers were young, with no seniors, but boasted enough depth to topple Boca Ciega for the region championship. Jesuit finished tied for fourth in the Class 2A state tournament.

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