Seminole coach Rich Lally set some goals for his young girls tennis team before the season began, as most coaches do. Things like winning conference and district championships, going undefeated, and, most important, improving on last year's third-place finish at state.
But for his players, just doing better was not enough. "We didn't want to finish second," said Lori Grey, Seminole's No. 1 player.
It was with that kind of outlook that Lally's troops, who competed in Class 6A last season, swept their matches Tuesday to overtake St. Augustine Nease and win the 5A state title. Throughout it all, the only one with even a hint of worry was Lally.
"I was the nervous one, the one with the upset stomach," he said. "They kept themselves loose. They told me they'd get it done, and they did."
Seminole, a team without a senior, began the day with a two-point deficit to Nease. While state titles by Grey, No. 2 Lauren Scaglione and No. 3 Nicole Cercone obviously were integral, the most pivotal match may have been a No. 2 doubles semifinal.
"That match kept us alive," Lally said.
In the match, Cercone and Jodi Berman beat Nease's Dana Goffin and April Fitzsimmons 6-2, 6-0. The pair, along with the No. 1 team of Grey and Scaglione, both went on to win in the finals. In the end, Seminole held a three-point edge over Nease.
Today, Grey plays the winner of this morning's individual tournament final to determine the true state champion. Same goes at No. 1 doubles, where Grey and Scaglione could face Boca Ciega's team of Tiffanie Kalvoda and Tomeka Collins.
Even before Tuesday, Grey had an impressive resume, including a state doubles title with older sister Christa. What she didn't have was a team state title. Not to worry.
"(This morning) we were just like, "Let's not lose,' " Grey said. "We weren't nervous. This is fun."
GAINESVILLE _ The first day of the Class 3A state individual tournament at Westside Park was a good one for Canterbury's Daniel and Kelly McCain.
Daniel knocked off West Palm Beach School of the Arts' Brian Hickey 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals of the singles bracket, while Kelly disposed of Lakeland Christian's Jamie Chan 6-1, 6-0.
Kelly then teamed with Kristin Rannala to thrash Tallahassee Maclay's Rebecca Edwards and Mallory Thornberry 6-1, 6-0.
All three teams and the doubles team of Daniel McCain and Kyle Nelson advanced to play in today's semifinal rounds of the individual tournament.
_ BRIAN McLAUGHLIN