TAMPA — Berkeley Prep's Eric Fitz-Randolph and Zach Ayers played first sets Thursday afternoon that had them talking to themselves.
But the pair rallied at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, to clinch Berkeley Prep's first boys region team title with a 5-0 win over Winter Haven All Saints. The Bucs advance to next week's state tournament having not dropped a match in the postseason.
"We wanted to make it to states but we didn't realize we could accomplish that feat," Berkeley coach Gary Baker said of his team's postseason unbeaten streak.
Ayers came back from the brink of defeat, winning 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, after being behind 3-1 in the second-set tiebreaker. Fitz-Randolph earned a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win. No. 1 Nathan Graddy (6-1, 6-1), No. 4 Nikita Leonov (6-0, 7-5) and No. 5 Gannon Kennedy (6-0, 6-1) won the other singles matches.
4A: Wildcats book return trip to state
The Wildcats will play for their third straight state championship after dismantling host Plant 4-1. Wharton's top four singles players won, three without dropping a set: No. 1 Michael Alford (6-1, 6-1), No. 2 Ben Hwang (6-0, 6-2) and No. 4 Jon Ho (6-4, 6-0). No. 3 Rohit Navelkar dropped the first set before rebounding to beat Mike Secular, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.
"They're all fighters," Wharton coach Marcie Scholl said. "They've been training all year for this."
Plant No. 5 Adam Osiason earned the only Panthers win, beating T.J. Young 6-0, 6-0.
3A: Terriers cruise
Hillsborough continued its domination of district opponents by dropping just three games in five singles straight-set wins in a 7-0 victory over East Bay.
No. 1 Brian Kowalski (6-0, 6-0), No. 2 Jackson Murphy (6-1, 6-1), No. 1 Alex Peckham (6-0, 6-0), No. 4 Jay Mendoza (6-0, 6-0) and No. 5 Karim Saad (6-1, 6-0) all won easily for the Terriers. Hillsborough advances to its first state team tourney since 2005.
2A: Tigers tripped up
Jesuit's success has greatly hinged on the Tigers' talented freshman trio at the top of their lineup, but they met their match against Bayshore, falling 4-2.
Jesuit's only wins came at Nos. 4 and 5 singles, with Ryan Walden (6-1, 7-5) and T.R. Bopp (6-1, 6-0) triumphing.
"We were just physically overmatched," Jesuit coach Joe Curtis said. "They were just really much bigger than us. Coming in I was always concerned about our age, but today they were just bigger. They were definitely a handful."
Jesuit's No. 1, Jamie Sullivan, will play in next week's state tournament as a district singles winner and will match up with Jordan Nasser for doubles at state.