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Means sisters help Wiregrass Ranch finish third in first trip to state tennis tourney

Wiregrass Ranch’s Sarah Means returns the ball during her competitive No. 1 singles match against Gibbs’ Akilah James, eventually falling 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-1. She later paired with her sister, Elizabeth, to win at No. 1 doubles.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Wiregrass Ranch’s Sarah Means returns the ball during her competitive No. 1 singles match against Gibbs’ Akilah James, eventually falling 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-1. She later paired with her sister, Elizabeth, to win at No. 1 doubles.

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS — All Wiregrass Ranch had left entering Thursday's final day of the Class 3A state team competition was Sarah and Elizabeth Means.

It was almost enough to win a state championship.

Elizabeth Means captured the No. 2 championship, then the sisters teamed up to win at No. 1 doubles to give the Bulls a third-place finish in the school's first appearance at state. Wiregrass Ranch finished with nine points, behind Tallahassee Leon (12) and Naples Barron Collier (10).

"I'm proud of the girls; all the hard work paid off in the end," said first-year coach Jewel Fye.

Elizabeth Means defeated the No. 2 seed in the semifinals, then took out No. 1 seed Leslie Raymond of Naples Barron Collier 6-0, 6-3 at Sanlando Park.

The match of the day, though, featured sister Sarah, who dueled Gibbs' Akilah James in a three-hour, 11-minute final that drew a crowd of fans. Sarah quickly fell behind 5-0, but rallied to make a match of it. She dropped the first set, won the second in a tiebreaker but succumbed to James' powerful game 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 6-1.

"I knew it would be a tough match. She was very good," James said. Pointing to the side of her head, James added, "She's a very smart player."

And determined. She got to most of James' power shots, and answered with a few of her own.

In No. 1 doubles, the Means sisters cruised to the title, earning gold medals. Having already beaten the top-seeded team in the quarterfinals, the Meanses beat a team from Olympic Heights 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals, then knocked off the No. 2-seeded Barron Collier team of Leslie and Lindsey Raymond 6-0, 6-3.

The sisters, straight-A students who didn't play the past two seasons so they could focus on academics, go for the overall doubles championship today, facing Chamberlain's Nicole Mera and McKenzie O'Brien, who advanced from the bracket featuring No. 1 teams that won districts but whose teams didn't advance.

On the Web

Check out photos from Thursday's Class 3A action in a gallery at

tampabay.com/hometeam

Means sisters help Wiregrass Ranch finish third in first trip to state tennis tourney 04/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 10:47pm]

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