NEW PORT RICHEY — Nicola Wellman grabbed her chest and struggled to breathe.
River Ridge's No. 1 singles player suffered a heat-related medical emergency in the middle of Thursday's second round of the Class 3A region tournament.
Wellman was up a set and trailed 5-2 in the second. Paramedics arrived and carted her off on a stretcher to a nearby ambulance. She sobbed, begging to continue the match, but was forced to retire after about an hour delay.
Wiregrass Ranch's No. 1 doubles team of Sarah and Elizabeth Means earned the clinching team point for a 5-1 victory to avenge its loss to the Royal Knights in last week's district tournament.
Wellman's mother called later to let everyone know her daughter was doing well.
Wellman already had qualified for state as an individual, but the thought of costing the team Thursday's match was clearly in her thoughts.
"I can't really tell you anything other than she's resting fine," said her father, Brent. "I talked to her when I first got home. …She's very upset they wouldn't let her play that third set. …I'm happy she didn't have problem with her vital signs."
River Ridge coach Doug Howery tried to lend perspective.
"It's disappointing but it's life," Howery said. "In the whole scheme of life, it's a tennis match. We would have loved to have won. …Under the circumstances, I would have loved to have seen No. 1 finish out at (No. 1) doubles at normal strength, but that happens. It's part of life."
For the Bulls, the match was bittersweet revenge after losing on these same courts last week. As it stands, this will be the Bulls' first trip to state as a team.
Wiregrass needed to mount a comeback after River Ridge's Taylor LaRue defeated Jordanyne Fye 6-1, 6-0 at No. 5 singles; then the Royal Knights' Jordyn Garcia defeated Katie Bonti 6-0, 6-0 at No. 4 for a 2-0 lead. The Bulls took wins at Nos. 2 and 3 singles with Elizabeth Means defeating Tijana Subotic 6-3, 6-1, then the Bulls' Hannah Still defeated Angela Wellman 7-5, 6-0.
"I'm just so proud of the girls working so hard," Bulls coach Jewel Fye said. "They came back."
3A boys: Bulls ousted
Momentum dictated the play of Wiregrass Ranch, which fell 4-3 at Daytona Beach Mainland. The Bulls earned wins at No. 1 singles with Spencer Ong (6-4, 6-4), at No. 5 singles with Dan Helfrich (6-0, 6-1) and No. 1 doubles of Ong and Eric Rivas (6-1, 6-2).
A three-set loss for Brandon Key at No. 4 singles sent the Bulls into doubles trailing by one point. After Ong and Rivas tied it at 3, the No. 2 doubles team of Landon Burstiner and Key fell 6-4, 6-3 ending the match.
2A boys: Gators roll on
Land O'Lakes continued to cruise, earning a trip to state with a 5-2 win over Nature Coast. The Gators were led by Colin Roller and Chris Story.
Roller remained undefeated with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Tyler Schwefringhau. Story defeated David Cross 6-1, 6-1, then Roller and Story combined for a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles against Schwefringhau and Cross.
The Gators also got wins at No. 5 singles from Henry Jamie, who defeated Joshua Weaver 6-2, 6-3, and a win at No. 2 doubles from Tim Falcon and Jordan Stewart.
2A girls: Bulldogs fall
Zephyrhills' dream of a state berth ended at Zephyr Park with a 4-3 loss to Crystal River.
Zephyrhills won at No. 2 singles with Chelsea Smith defeating Kayla Papp 6-3, 6-4, and at No. 5 singles: Debbi Herlan defeated Chelsea Combrink 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. The Bulldogs' No. 1 doubles team of Sarah VandeBerg and Smith also defeated Kristin Tringali and Chelsea Combrink 6-2, 6-0.