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King falls to 3rd in tight 6A battle

The Class 6A girls tennis tournament was a three-team race down to the last doubles match Friday, with King finishing third.

Miami Sunset finished with 14 points to win the state title by a slim margin over Boca Raton Olympic Heights (13 points) and King (12 points). Going into the final two doubles matches, any of the three teams could have at least tied for the state championship.

Sunset clinched the title when it knocked off King's No. 1 doubles team of Tiffany Pinciotti and Brooke Leitch 6-0, 6-1. If Sunset had lost the match to King, there would have been the first three-team tie for first place in the history of high school tennis in Florida.

The loss in the finals didn't phase King's girls, who walked away with their heads held high after placing so highly in their first state tournament appearance. The Lions also had a state champion in No. 4 singles player Caroline Tien, who defeated Niceville's Christina Leavenworth 7-5, 6-3 for the title.

"(Leavenworth) would just hit every ball back and not try anything, and I don't play very well against that," Tien said. "So in the second set I changed to her way and just beat her at her own game."

Leitch also reached the final at No. 3, but fell to Olympic Heights' Ilene Marcus 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Lauren Keller dropped the No. 5 singles final 6-2, 6-3 to Sunset's Adrianna Becerra.

"Sunset just plays textbook tennis," King girls coach Carol Pressick said. "We never expected to get this far so soon, though. We got all of our girls into the semifinals."

Tampa Bay Tech's Brandon Wagner gutted his way through a three-setter with Bradenton Southeast's Ryan Mauck, to put himself in the position for the individual singles state championship win over Vero Beach's Robert Kowalozyk 6-4, 6-4.

Kowalozyk and Wagner had faced off before, and in the last one, Wagner had a back injury that hampered him and led to a loss. Friday, Kowalozyk had a nagging groin injury and couldn't keep up with Wagner.

Wagner will now play the team No. 1 singles champion _ Olympic Height's Dustin Friedman _ in today's ultimate state championship in 6A singles. It won't be the first time Wagner has faced Friedman either, as the two faced off in a Friedman win last year.

Wagner and his doubles partner Ketan Patel lost in the semifinals 7-5, 6-1 to Cooper City's Jesse and Justin Smatt to end their run at a state title in doubles too.

4A: Laflin wins title

LAKELAND _ Andrew Laflin's tear through the state tournament culminated Friday with his victory in the 4A singles championship. The Jesuit senior beat Royal Palm Beach junior Kent Ball 7-5, 7-5 in Lakeland.

Laflin becomes the first champion in the new format. He reached the final via his No. 1 singles championship in the team tournament. Ball won the individual draw.

Laflin, who will attend Notre Dame in the fall, rebounded from a minor early season slump to finish his high-school career in top form.

"After I lost a couple of matches, I had to analyze my game," said Laflin, second at state the three previous seasons. "This past month I've been raking in some really good wins.

"What a way to go out after all those runner-up finishes."

_ CHRIS ROTAR

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