BROOKSVILLE — For the fourth time in school history, the Nature Coast boys tennis team will be returning to the Class 2A region finals after sweeping Gulf on Wednesday.
In the first meeting between the programs since last year, the Sharks won all seven matches. Nature Coast last won a region title in 2011.
"It's hard to know what to expect when you're facing a team for the first time," Nature Coast coach Tom Brown said. "It was all about staying focused as we close in on our goal."
All seven matches were won in straight sets as Jesse DeWitt, Conner Schwefringhaus, Dakota Willey, Alec Lund and Charles Buckner had no struggles in singles.
The match could have been called at that point, but Gulf stayed for doubles. Schwefringhaus and DeWitt won 6-0, 6-1 over the Bucs' No. 1 tandem of Alex Walker and Aakash Punjabi. At No. 2, Jerry Bianculli and Nick Pais beat Robin Michaelson and Lasia Lo 6-2, 6-2.
Nature Coast has reached region six straight seasons but was eliminated each of the past two seasons 7-0 by Gainesville Eastside.
Pirates, Leopards advance
HUDSON — The Pasco boys and Hernando girls both ousted host Fivay to set up rematches with their district vanquishers.
Pasco's boys won despite the loss of No. 1 Joshua Morris, who disqualified for his use of profanity at the end of a district loss to Nature Coast. Sliding up from No. 2, Alex Mitchell beat Derek Balazy 6-1, 6-3 and new No. 2 Christian Yann made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
A big point came from No. 3 Mark Ray, 6-4, 6-2 against Luke Theede in Ray's first action since spraining his ankle two weeks ago.
Fivay No. 4 Chris Mancini won 6-3, 7-6, but by then Pasco had clinched victory with No. 5 Will Waselewski prevailing.
Nature Coast won the regular-season meeting with Pasco 4-3.
For the girls, Hernando coach Connie Foster said the Leopards are eager to play Pasco, which won 5-2 and then a tightly contested district meeting.
Wins from No. 1 Grace Curren, No. 2 Jada Bergstrom and No. 5 Amber Haisley left the Leopards needing just a split at doubles to advance. The No. 2 team of Lida-Marie Steinkamp and Shelby Smith shook off their singles losses to prevail 6-1, 6-4. Curren then teamed with Bergstrom to top Fivay 6-0, 6-3.
Times correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.