It wasn’t a total breeze, but it was another solid victory for Jesuit’s tennis team, which defeated Robinson 5-0 in Thursday’s 2A-Region 3 final to earn its 22nd trip to the state tournament in the past 23 years.
“I’m really proud of this year’s team because it turned out to be a little more challenging than in past years,” Jesuit coach Joe Curtis said. “We fought through some injuries and some other adversities and made it back once again.”
Jesuit No. 1 Jordan Nasser led the way with a 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory over up-and-coming Knights freshman Michael Marinskiy. Tigers’ David Pagliarulo, Palmer Evans, Maxwell Azzarelli and Alex Crosby followed with victories in the No. 2 through No. 5 singles, though each dropped several games.
“We did win all of our (singles matches), but it wasn’t like we weren’t challenged,” Curtis said. “We look forward to many more matches with Robinson in the next few years, because they are young and they have a lot of talent. This is great for us and for the county overall.”
Jesuit goes into next week’s state tournament with an 11-2 record and hopes to finish among the state’s top three teams.
“We’re getting better all the time,” Robinson coach Lisa Derathe said. “We have a lot to look forward to.”
Wiregrass Ranch wanted revenge and the Bulls got it.
Thanks to a 4-0 win against rival Wharton in the 4A-Region 3 final, the Bulls (18-0) not only clinched their second trip to the state tournament, but beat the team that knocked them out of regions last season.
“We wanted to beat Wharton — it feels good to beat them,” said Courage Okungbowa, the Bulls’ senior No. 1 player, who finished his career undefeated in non-state play and was 4A state runner-up individually in 2012. “They got to us last year, so we wanted to get them back this season.”
Wiregrass jumped to a 3-0 lead, thanks to wins in the 2, 4 and 5 players. No. 2 Agie Moreno defeated Alek Crnogorac 6-1, 6-4, with Moreno winning three straight games in the second set. At Nos. 4 and 5, Alejandro Feliciano and Foresight Okungbowa easily put away Cesar Maeda and Jack Lange, winning 6-1, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-0.
It came down to the No. 1 and 3 matchups that went to third sets. Niels van Dam was tied with Thomas Hwang 6-1, 6-7 (4-7), while Courage Okungbowa was tied with Sam Chaffin 2-6, 6-2.
“I faced Sam already and he was sick, so I wanted to see him again,” said Courage, who has committed to FAMU. “I thought it would go a little differently and be straight sets, but after he got the first game on me, I had to dig deep and get through.”
Courage would win the third set 6-3, beating out a rain shower, but only after long rallies from Chaffin and winning on a break match point. Van Dam was up 5-4 with the game at 40-30 before the match was called because of rain.
“I’m glad we get to go as team because these guys haven’t been before,” Courage said, referring to the team’s state appearance in 2011. “It’s great experience, but we all want to do better than (first-round exits like) last time. We’re capable of much more than that.”
The Pirates managed to win one set in singles play, though No. 1 Austin Riddaugh lost 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to Hyunsoo Joo.
Samuel Cockey defeated Josh Morris 6-1, 6-3; Camille Kima downed Alex Mitchell 6-2, 6-0; Maxwell Curtis beat Christian Yann 6-1, 6-1; and Tabong Kima beat Will Waselewski 6-1, 6-0.
Pasco's lone point came from No. 2 doubles, where Waselewski and Yann won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
1A-4: Tampa Prep out No question that Tampa Prep’s boys tennis team was tough this season, but in the 1A-Region 2 final at Winter Haven All Saints’, the Terrapins weren’t strong enough.
“(Winter Haven All Saints’) is so talented at the No. 1 through No. 3 that it would be tough for anyone to beat them,” Tampa Prep coach Sean Lake said. “We fought hard, but their talent is just so strong.”
The good news is that Tampa Prep returns all but one of its top five starters for next season.
“We have some great young freshmen that look to step up,” Lake said. “It’s encouraging looking to the future.”