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Tennis: North Suncoast district preview

Wiregrass Ranch’s Courage Okungbowa is ranked No.  37 in Florida in the 16-and-under division.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Wiregrass Ranch’s Courage Okungbowa is ranked No.  37 in Florida in the 16-and-under division.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Rarely has a team dominated local tennis quite like the Wiregrass Ranch boys have this season.

The Bulls won all 13 of their regular-season matches without much of a test from anybody.

They lost one singles match all season, going 64-1. Same with doubles. Heck, only one of the Bulls' five singles players even lost a set all season.

Wiregrass Ranch can also lay claim to the top player on the North Suncoast, sophomore sensation Courage Okungbowa.

As easily as the Bulls romped through the regular season, Okungbowa, a transfer from Alexandria, Va., might have faced even less of a challenge in the No. 1 singles position. Only Land O'Lakes junior Colin Roller, who previously held the top local player title, posed a threat.

Roller was undefeated against Pasco County competition in two-plus seasons but lost to Okungbowa in straight sets, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. Okungbowa fought off three set points in an opening-set tiebreaker before rallying to win the next five points, the set and eventually the match.

"It was almost like watching a professional match, they were that good," Wiregrass Ranch boys coach David Wilson said. "Courage doesn't get rattled really easily. It seems like nothing bothers him. He goes out and plays the same game all the time."

Okungbowa, given the name Courage by his parents as a reminder of the hardships they faced immigrating to America from Nigeria through Sierra Leone, played No. 1 singles as a freshman for Annandale (Va.) High last year. But his family moved to Florida, partly so their son could play tennis year round.

Okungbowa is 37th in the state in the 16 and under division.

"I think the biggest thing is his consistency," Wilson said. "He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He doesn't hit a lot of unforced errors. All of his strokes are very consistent."

With Wiregrass Ranch beginning postseason play Wednesday in the Class 3A, District 5 tournament at River Ridge, Okungbowa looks forward to showcasing his game with more on the line.

"It's like a new stage for me," he said. "I want to see how competitive the players are when you get to the top levels."

Last season, Elizabeth and Sarah Means captured Wiregrass Ranch's first state title in tennis after defeating Chamberlain's Nicole Mera and McKenzie O'Brien in the Class 3A overall doubles championship.

Could Okungbowa be next?

"I like to believe that I can do it," he said. "I practice every day and put in a lot of hard work."

With quality players up and down the lineup combined with a tremendous amount of depth, the Bulls will be a serious contender for the team title as well.

District schedule

Note: District tennis is played over two days

Class 3A-5: Wednesday, 9 a.m. and Thursday, 9 a.m. at River Ridge

Teams: Central, Citrus, Hudson, Lecanto, Leesburg, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead, Wiregrass Ranch

Class 2A-5: Monday, 9 a.m. and Tuesday, 9 a.m. at Crystal River

Teams: Belleview, Crystal River, Dunnellon, Hernando, Nature Coast, North Marion, Santa Fe

Class 2A-6: Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. at Wesley Chapel (boys); Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. and Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. at Zephyr Park (girls)

Teams: Anclote, Fivay, Gulf, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Pasco, Sunlake, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills

Class A-8: Wednesday, 8 a.m. and Thursday, 9 a.m. at Hillsborough Community College

Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Academy of the Holy Names, Berkeley Prep, Bishop McLaughlin, Cambridge, Carrollwood Day, Seffner Christian, Tampa Catholic, Tampa Prep, Weeki Wachee

Tennis: North Suncoast district preview 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 6:33pm]
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