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Plant girls rally, win 4A state tennis title

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: April 19, 2013 at 07:53 AM
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -

Around 4 p.m. on Thursday, on a tennis court tucked away in Altamonte Springs, the final shot of the Class 4A state girls team tournament sailed wide, and Plant’s No. 1 doubles team of Blair Martin and Gabby Rodriguez pumped their fists, screamed and jumped in each other’s arms.

Somehow, some way, after fighting through cramps and tough team losses in singles matches, the Panthers pulled off their third straight state title, this time 12-11 over Cypress Bay, the same team Martin and Rodriguez defeated in the No. 1 doubles final.

“We were nervous and we were tired,” said Martin, the Panthers’ only senior. “But we knew whoever won the (No. 1 doubles match) won the state team title. We definitely felt the pressure.”

Rodriguez, a sophomore, admitted that she and Martin were worried and exhausted (after playing 10 hours of hard-fought tennis in the previous 24 hours), but said, “I just told myself, ‘You are not going to lose this match because you’re tired. You can’t let that happen.’”

Rodriguez said she reprimanded herself with the aforementioned speech after she and Martin got waxed 6-2 in the first set of the doubles final.

“We told each other, ‘We have to find something — whatever that may be — inside of us,’” said Rodriguez, who won the No. 3 singles championship about an hour before No. 1 doubles started. “We have to dig down and find something in there.”

“And we did,” said Martin, who lost her No. 1 singles final a few hours earlier after getting numerous treatment from the athletic trainer for cramps. “I don’t know exactly what it was, but thankfully we found it.”

Steadily, Rodriguez and Martin found life, and then fire, going on to take the final two sets 6-2, 6-2.

“It’s amazing really, how they can turn it on like that after that rough start,” Plant coach Margaret Drumsta said. “They amaze me.”

As it turned out, Rodriguez and Martin were far from the only Panthers heroes on Thursday. Plant’s No. 2 doubles team of Erica Oosterhout and Monica Phipps also proved key, winning their semifinal match 6-0, 6-0 and the final 6-3, 6-4.

In the end, Plant’s girls went 5-1 on Thursday, which proved to be just enough.

In Class 2A, Academy’s No. 1 and No. 2 players, Daniela Nasser and Caroline Lozo, suffered tough defeats in Thursday’s team finals.

Nasser lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 and Lozo lost 6-2, 6-2, pretty much ending the Jaguars’ season as a team, but leaving much optimism toward the future because both Nasser and Lozo are sophomores.

Nasser’s brother, Jesuit senior Jordan Nasser, also lost his Class 2A No. 1 singles team match, 6-4, 6-1, as did Jesuit’s No. 5 player Alex Crosby, 6-3, 6-4.

Jesuit still ended up third overall in the Class 2A team race with seven points, though well behind the team champion, Gulliver Prep, which finished with 21.

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