TAMPA — Though his team lost badly to St. Petersburg Catholic during two regular-season matches, Jesuit boys coach Joe Curtis thought the Tigers had a chance to defeat the Barons and claim the district title. That's because Jesuit was without its full lineup in both previous meetings.
"And," he added, "I hoped we would play better."
The Tigers did, but it still wasn't enough.
Behind strong efforts throughout the lineup, the Barons got past the determined Tigers, finishing three points ahead (18-15) in a hard-fought battle for first at Hillsborough Community College on Tuesday. SPC, which went 9-4 in dual events during the regular season, had six head-to-head matches with Jesuit, and held the Tigers off by taking three of them.
The bad news for Jesuit, which got singles victories Tuesday from Macale Smith and Chase Merlin? It last failed to win districts in 1992. The good news? For the first time, the district runnerup also advances to regionals.
"We played okay," Curtis said. "But I thought we would do better. We just don't have the depth we've had in the past."
SPC also won on the girls side, but the real battle was for second, where Tampa Catholic sneaked by Academy of the Holy Names 13-11. The Crusaders earned key wins Tuesday at Nos. 1 and 2 singles from sisters Meghan and Kelly Sullivan, who also teamed for a victory at No. 1 doubles.
"I'm pleased," TC coach Lauren Walker said. "Everyone worked hard. And everyone contributed."
SPC's Michael Kopelman, an undefeated senior who has scholarship offers from Florida Gulf Coast and Hofstra, and Meghan Sullivan automatically qualified for state as the No. 1 singles champions.
In doubles, Kopelman and Quenten Gabay reached state by winning at No. 1, along with the Sullivan sisters.
Team: 1. SPC 16, 2. Tampa Catholic 13, 3. Holy Names 11, 4. Robinson 4, 5. Spoto 3
Individuals: 1. Meghan Sullivan (TC) d. Melissa Narzissenfeld (AHN) 6-2, 6-3; 2. Kelly Sullivan (TC) vs. Jerica Coley (SPC) 6-2, 6-2; 3. Danielle Nickerson (SPC) d. Kim Renspie (AHN) 7-5, 6-2; 4. Molly Smith (SPC) d. Ashley Farrell (TC) 6-1, 6-0; 5. Melissa Smith (SPC) d. Christina Socias (AHN) 6-3, 6-4. Doubles: 1. M.Sullivan/K.Sullivan (TC) d. Coley/Alyssa Bellini (SPC) 6-0, 6-4; 2. M. Smith/Nickerson (SPC) d. Bianca Roberts/Annie Hubbell (AHN) 6-2, 6-1
Team: 1. SPC 18, 2. Jesuit 15, 3. Tampa Catholic 5, T4. Robinson 2, T4. Spoto 2
Individuals: 1. Michael Kopelman (SPC) d. Josh Wynne (Je) 6-1, 6-3; 2. Macale Smith (Je) d. A.J. Schuyler (SPC) 6-2, 6-0; 3. Chase Merlin (Je) d. Quenten Gabay (SPC) 6-0, 6-0; 4. Zach Hotz (SPC) d. J.M. Snyder (Je) 6-2, 6-0; 5. Luke Burton (SPC) d. Bryan Brislin (TC) 6-2, 7-5. Doubles: 1. Gabay/ Kopelman (SPC) d. Wynne/Snyder (Je) 6-3, 6-1; 2. Smith/Merlin (Je) d. Hotz/Schuyler (SP) 6-1, 6-1