ALTAMONTE SPRINGS — Northeast sophomore Danielle Collins had yet to be tested this season.
Collins, the No. 1 under-18 player in the nation, barely broke a sweat to go undefeated during the regular season. She won the district title 6-1, 6-1 over Gibbs' Akilah James.
Heading into Friday's Class 3A overall singles championship at Sanlando Park — a rematch with James, the 3A team singles champion — Collins had given up just three games combined in two matches.
So when James took a 5-1 first-set lead by using her accurate groundstrokes to move the ball sideline to sideline, coupled with an unusually high amount of unforced errors from Collins, the question became: How would Collins respond in her first tight spot at the high school level?
Quite well, actually.
Collins fought back, pulling within 5-4 but couldn't hold serve in a first set that went to James. Collins, though, carried her momentum from the end of the first set throughout the rest of the match to dispatch James handily over the final two sets 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Collins becomes the first county player to win an overall singles championship since 2002, when Countryside's Jennifer Dent won in 3A.
"(James) played really good in the beginning. She was knocking winners from everywhere. It was really frustrating me," Collins said. "But then the second set, I started playing more consistently and I got off to a better start."
James won the first game of the second set before Collins started connecting on the types of shots she had been narrowly missing. She reeled off six straight games, including three breaks of James' serve, to regain form.
It was more of the same in the third. Collins built a 4-1 lead. James tried to get back in the match, taking advantage of her seventh break point in Collins' service game to pull to 4-2. But Collins broke back and served out the match, converting her first match point opportunity.
Meanwhile, Pinellas County captured its first overall doubles title since 2002. St. Petersburg Catholic's Julia Jones and Jerica Coley outlasted Out-of-Door Academy's Caroline Dailey and Michelle Ramos 7-5, 7-5 to earn the Class A doubles title at Casselberry's Red Bug Lake Park.
It was the second time Jones and Coley defeated Dailey and Ramos in a little more than a week. The Barons duo vaulted SPC into the team competition at state with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the region final.
Serving for the first set at 5-4, Coley won her serve for the first time in the match, finishing off the set by leaping high in the air for an overhead smash.
After a 15-minute rain delay at the start of the second set, Jones and Coley went ahead 5-3. Out-of-Door made it 5-all, but Jones and Coley broke Ramos, then Coley, again with the match on her serve, overcame the pressure to capitalize on a second match point for the victory.