NEW PORT RICHEY — With the regular-season schedule in its final week, the River Ridge and Wiregrass Ranch girls programs have established themselves as the teams to beat in Pasco County.
Tuesday, they met on the court for the first time this year, and if their initial meeting is any indication, both teams should see plenty of each other in the postseason.
After five hours of nip-and-tuck action, Tuesday's heavyweight bout came down to the final match at No. 2 doubles. And after fighting their way through two tiebreakers and a winner-take-all third set tiebreak, the team of Taylor Laroue and Julie Quina prevailed to give River Ridge a 4-3 victory over previously unbeaten Wiregrass Ranch.
Laroue and Quina won the first set in a tiebreaker over Jordanyne Fye and Anne Cypriano and had three match points in the second set but failed to capitalize. Fye and Cypriano won a second set tiebreaker, and because darkness wouldn't allow the doubles teams to play a complete third set, another tiebreaker was played immediately following the second set, which Laroue and Quina won 10-7 to end the match.
"They were a really good team. They were solid," Laroue said. "It was a tight one. I'm sure we'll see them again in districts."
Wiregrass Ranch (10-1) led three matches to two after singles play, thanks to a comeback effort from No. 1 singles player Hannah Still. Facing River Ridge's Tijana Subotic in a match between player of the year candidates, Still lost the first set 6-1 but broke Subotic's serve to open the second and held serve throughout to take the set 6-4. In the third, Still prevailed in a back-and-forth opening game to break then held her serve in another tightly contested game.
From there, Subotic ran out of gas as Still took the final set 6-1.
"I think that first game of the third set was a turning point for me," Still said. "Once I won that, I was pumped. I was ready to go for the rest of the match."
Fye defeated Quina 6-4, 6-0 at No. 4 singles and Cypriano was a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Kaitlyn Howery at No. 5 singles to account for the rest of the Bulls' victories.
River Ridge's Jordyn Garcia defeated Leliani Cubero 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, and Laroue upended Katie Bonti 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles to keep the Royal Knights (14-1) in the match.
Subotic and Garcia blanked Still and Bonti 8-0 at No. 1 doubles, setting up the winner-take-all match at No. 2 doubles.