Player of the year
Courage Okungbowa, So., Wiregrass Ranch
A transfer from Virginia, Okungbowa wasted little time introducing himself to the rest of the North Suncoast’s tennis elite. He completed the regular season undefeated in singles and doubles and dropped last year’s North Suncoast Player of the Year, Colin Roller from Land O’Lakes, in a tight, two-set match. Okungbowa was unchallenged at the 3A-5 district tournament, easily winning singles title as well as a doubles title with teammate Spencer Ong. Okungbowa led Wiregrass Ranch to a resounding 4-0 victory over Seabreeze in the region semifinals and was the driving force behind a 4-2 win over Mainland in the regional finals to clinch the first state tournament berth for the Wiregrass Ranch boys.
Most impressive accomplishment: Through five singles matches in districts and regionals, Okungbowa lost just one game total. The smooth-swinging sophomore defeated each of his district singles opponents 6-0, 6-0, and Okungbowa and Ong won the district doubles title at love. Okungbowa didn’t give up a game until the late stages of his 6-0, 6-1 region final singles win against Seabreeze.
Future plans: Next year, his younger brother Foresight will join the Bulls as a freshman. Courage said he would like to turn professional right after high school. To that end, he is playing numerous USTA junior tournaments during the summer to improve his ranking. He is preparing for a state closed sectional tournament in June and a national tournament in Fort Myers in July.
Did you know? Okungbowa carries a 4.25 weighted and 3.86 unweighted grade-point average and was honored with a ceremony Saturday for his academic achievements by Citizens Concerned for Students.
Eric Busch, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: A transfer from Texas, Busch lost just three times at No. 3 singles and provided the Bulls with the necessary depth to qualify for state.
Spencer Ong, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Bulls’ No. 1 last year as a junior, Ong went undefeated through the regular season and districts at No. 2.
Colin Roller, Jr., Land O’Lakes: Won singles and doubles titles at districts to qualify for state a third straight season.
Cameron Roth, Sr., Wesley Chapel: Upperclassman advanced to the finals of the 2A-6 district singles field before he was upended by Roller.
Tyler Schwefringhaus, Sr., Nature Coast: Leader of a talented Sharks team that made state for the first time since 2007.
David Cross, Sr., Nature Coast
Jaime Feliciano, So., Wiregrass Ranch
Nick Hill, Sr., River Ridge
Andrew Lund, Sr., Nature Coast
Swayze Page, Jr., Mitchell
Anclote: Christian Curtis; Fivay: Gio Garnada; Gulf: Victor Cao, Viroath Danh; Hernando: Caio Vale; Land O’Lakes: Alexander Wang; Mitchell: Tony Nguyen; Nature Coast: Zenon Kouts; Pasco: James Drewes, Jacob Guy; Ridgewood: Anthony Fleres, Alex Dziedzic; River Ridge: Dylan Taylor; Springstead: Trevor Whitmill, Carl Zee; Wesley Chapel: Diego Armas; Wiregrass Ranch: Dan Helfrich
Coach of the year
Carrie Page, Mitchell
Page, in her third season, guided the Mustangs to their first district title since 2002 despite losing her No. 2 singles player early in the season. But the Mustangs didn’t stop at districts. Five days later, the Mitchell boys won the first postseason tennis match in school history, defeating Crystal River 4-3 to advance to the Class 2A region finals.
Player of the year
Tijana Subotic, Sr., River Ridge
Subotic qualified for the state tournament for the third time in four tries after claiming district titles (3A-5) in singles and doubles. Subotic lost a nail biter in her first-round singles match at state but rebounded to make the semifinals in doubles with Jordyn Garcia after beating a team from Navarre 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. It was the second time Subotic had advanced to at least the semifinals in the state doubles bracket. Subotic rolled through the regular season, losing just one singles match, and led River Ridge to a second-place finish at districts. The Royal Knights fell in the region semifinals, but Subotic did her part, easily dispatching her opponent 6-1, 6-2 and partnering with Garcia to win at No. 1 doubles in a match that took two days to complete because of inclement weather.
Most impressive accomplishment: Subotic’s only singles loss prior to state came in the regular-season finale against Wiregrass Ranch. The Bulls’ Hannah Still rallied from a set down to win 1-6, 6-4, 6-1. At districts, though, Subotic got her revenge. With the title and an automatic trip to state on the line, Subotic overwhelmed Still 6-3, 6-0.
Future plans: Subotic had offers to play college tennis from schools in Georgia and the Carolinas, but she wants to enter the medical field and decided to give up competitive tennis. She’ll enter USF in the fall. “I just decided that USF would be the best for me,” Subotic said. “I can focus on my school work and not have to travel to matches and get behind in my classes.”
Did you know? Subotic’s one weakness? Shoes. Tennis shoes, heels, boots it doesn’t matter. The 17-year-old has been collecting them as long as she can remember. It probably doesn’t help that she works at Journey’s. “Since I work there, I have so many pairs,” she said. “I can’t stop buying them.”
Victoria Chavez, 8th grade, Academy at the Lakes: Placed second at the A-8 tournament and was a couple of games from winning a district singles title.
Wenyi Gu, Sr., Land O’Lakes: Came out of a pack of strong contenders to reach the singles final at the 2A-6 district tournament and lead Gators to a region appearance.
Erin Moynihan, Fr., Weeki Wachee: Had a disappointing finish to her year but was Hernando County’s best player all season despite her youth.
Hannah Still, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: 3A-5 district singles runnerup will play tennis for Huntingdon College next year.
Sarah Vande Berg, Jr., Zephyrhills: State qualifier for the second year in a row for singles and doubles; won district titles in both.
Jordyn Garcia, Sr., River Ridge
Paige Hammer, Sr., Mitchell
Shelby Marrero, So., Hernando
Delanie McCabe, Jr., Nature Coast
Mallorie Pickersgill, Jr., Nature Coast
Central: Brittany Wert, Stephanie Wert; Gulf: Demi Durkin;
Hernando: Casey Miller; Land O’Lakes: Cori Arndt, Linzi Arndt; Nature Coast: Kaitlyn Bugden; Pasco: Amanda Dempsey, Mady Johnson, Rebecca Pelham; Ridgewood: Melissa Terranova; River Ridge: Taylor Laroue; Sunlake: Jackie Simpson; Wiregrass Ranch: Katie Bonti, Leilani Cubero; Zephyrhills: Sydney Owens
Coach of the year
Don Charlick, Pasco
In the third year of Charlick’s second stint as Pirates’ coach, Pasco emerged from the competitive 2A-6 tournament as district champion. The last time Pasco won a district title in girls tennis? 1994, when Charlick was guiding the Pirates’ boys to a conference championship.