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State tennis: Wharton boys, Plant girls take home titles

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS — In the end, a coin flip determined the holder of one state championship trophy.

There was no tiebreaker, no way to determine an individual champion. Instead, Wharton and St. Thomas Aquinas split the honor after both teams scored 13 points Tuesday for the Class 3A boys state championship.

The Wildcats took home medallions and Aquinas took home the trophy. Wharton will have its trophy mailed in the coming days.

In girls play, Plant left no doubt, earning the program's first state championship with 15 points, well beyond second-place West Broward with 9.

Plant did it with depth as individual state titles went to No. 1 Amber Li, No. 3 Claire Mitchell Andrews and No. 4 Morgan Nolan and the No. 2 doubles team of Nolan and Carol Fraley.

"We had a really strong team," Li said. "… We were really deep and we had a lot of girls to step up."

Li plays once more today for the overall top singles title.

In girls doubles, the River Ridge duo of Nicola Wellman and Tijana Subotic faced a pair of 5-2 deficits in the second and third sets before defeating Winter Haven's Lauren Gruber and Abbey Martinez to advance to the individual doubles final. But the grueling three-set affair left the girls diminished, leading to a straight-set loss in the final.

"They used all their energy in the match before," Royal Knights coach Doug Howery said. "They gave it everything they had."

For Wharton, being co-champion means the Wildcats have successfully defended the state title they won from a year ago. They had an opportunity to take the title outright heading into No. 1 doubles with a one-point lead in the team standings.

The Wharton duo of Michael Alford and Rohit Navelkar staged a remarkable comeback, facing match point in the second set before rallying to force a third set. But the Aquinas duo of Jesse Feder and Anthony Augustino fought back to claim the win (6-4, 5-7, 6-4) for the crucial point to earn a share of the team title.

"It shows our character," Wharton coach Marcie Scholl said of the match. "It shows we never give up, never hang our heads and we believe.

"Everybody's a winner. It's nice we can share it with (Aquinas)."

Wharton singles state champions include No. 1 Alford, No. Ben Hwang and No. 3 Navelkar. Alford, who lost just six of the 43 singles games he played at state, will play for today's overall singles championship. In individual singles play, Newsome's Andy Hersch played for the No. 1 individual singles title, but did not advance.

"You never think you'll have two champions," Navelkar said. "Both teams are happy."

State tennis: Wharton boys, Plant girls take home titles 04/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 11:42pm]

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