Girls regional semifinal tennis action on Tuesday afternoon includes two local programs.
Class 2A, District 6 runner-up Hernando (11-1), which hasn’t reached this level since 2006, journeys to Alachua County’s Northside Park at 4 p.m. to face the stout 2A-6 champion Lady Rams (4-6) from Gainesville-Eastside.
The survivor advances to Thursday’s 2A-Region III final against the survivor of Belleview at Pasco.
At 3 p.m. at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill, upstart Springstead (13-3) hosts perennial area power Lecanto (10-2).
The Spring Hill event survivor advances to Thursday’s 3A-III final against the survivor of Land O’ Lakes at Ocala-Forest.
Despite guiding the Eastside tennis team for the first time, Coach Bassi is no stranger to Ram athletics.
Over the years, Coach Bassi served as the boys assistant tennis coach for 10 seasons, coached the weightlifting team and led the girls golf team for 13 years.
Eastside is making its second straight regional appearance. Last year, the Lady Rams were erased after the first round by Pasco, 4-3.
The Lady Rams’ 4-6 regular-season record is deceiving. In this past week’s 2A-5 Tourney at Crystal River, the Alachua County netters nearly broomed their six other opponents collecting a meet-high 20 points.
Eastside’s No. 1-5 singles district champs feature: freshman Emily Louie-Meadors (10-2), junior Alexandra Sourakov (9-2), senior Antonia Veltcheva (6-5), sophomore Murielle LeMaire (5-4) and junior Angel Liu (8-2).
In doubles, look for defending 2A-5 champion Louie-Meadors/Sourakov (10-1) at No. 1 and juniors Amaleah Mirti/Christine Pu (6-2) at No. 2.
“Coming in (to districts), I knew we had a tough team. It just seemed like our kids put everything into their game at districts,” described Coach Bassi, whose squad captured all five singles titles and No. 1 doubles. “Going into Tuesday we’re very confident in our abilities.”
On the scouting report on the Lady Leopards, “I expect to be challenged on Tuesday,” pointed out Coach Bassi. “Hernando barely lost to Pasco in districts (16-15). And Pasco beat us last year.”
On the key to the Lady Rams advancing, “Our girls need to focus on their game. They can’t allow their opponents to dictate the tempo on how to play,” stressed Bassi. “Our kids have to play their game and not settle into a ‘Let’s hit over every time until they make a mistake’ match.
“Our kids are taught that if you have a shot, take it. Bottom line, our girls need to own their game.”
For the defending Hernando County champion Lady Leopards, they haven’t reached this round since April 21, 2006’s 2A-III regional semifinal 4-1 loss to Lecanto at the Brooksville City Courts under seventh-year mentor Teri Sellers.
Hernando enters riding a three-match winning skein since losing March 7’s 4-3 match at Delta Woods Park to 3A-6 champion Springstead.
At the 2A-6 Tourney this week in Dade City, the Purple and Gold returned home with three first-place blue ribbons.
Senior Shelby Marrero (14-1) captured gold twice. She captured the No. 2 singles title while junior Lida Marie Steinkamp (12-3) captured No. 3 singles.
More importantly, Marrero teamed with frosh sensation Grace Curren to claim first at No. 1 doubles. Curren/Marrero enter Tuesday’s match 10-1.
Curren is 13-2 at No. 1 singles followed by junior Shelby Smith (6-5) at No. 4 singles and frosh Caitlynn Nixon (8-4) at No. 5 singles.
Steinkamp and Smith (4-3) comprise the No. 2 doubles team.
In evaluating the team’s performance at districts, “We didn’t play our best tennis, except for a couple of players,” described seventh-year Hernando mentor Pete Lahey. “We played OK. I think we can play even better.”
On the monumental task of facing the Lady Rams, “Eastside is usually very good. They’ve got IB (International Baccalaureate program) kids; so they’re smart and talented,” noted Lahey.
On the key to upsetting Eastside, “We’ve got to go back to basics,” said Lahey. “We did some decent things in district, but we’re not puffing our chests. Our heads aren’t in the clouds.
“We know how good Eastside is. We have to just go out and play our best and see what happens.”
In the Lady Panthers’ last regional appearance on April 15, 2008, Lecanto eliminated previously unbeaten Nature Coast (12-1) at Delta Woods, 4-3.
In the subsequent regional finals, archrival Citrus expunged the Lady Panthers, 7-0.
The Citrus County crew enters 10-2 overall dropping the Feb. 6 season-opener at home to loaded Ocala-Forest, 6-1, before falling to Gainesville on Feb. 21 in Alachua County, 5-2.
In this past week’s 3A-5 Tournament at the palatial Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville, Forest topped Lecanto for first place in the eight-team meet, 16-11.
The Lady Panthers enter Tuesday’s match at Delta Woods with a seasonal scalp against Springstead.
Springstead entered a March 21 match at Lecanto riding a 10-match winning skein before losing, 5-2.
Lecanto arrives with a solid starting lineup.
In singles No. 1-5, look for senior Amber Gamble (11-1), sophomore Madison Gamble (11-1), sophomore Simi Shah (9-2), sophomore Megan Jervis (8-3) and junior Andrea DelaCruz (3-1). Both Amber Gamble and Shah claimed respective district titles at Gainesville.
In doubles, look for the two Gambles (10-2) at No. 1 and Shah/Jervis (6-2) at No. 2. The Gamble sisters captured the district title at Jonesville.
In the previous clash in Citrus County, only Shah lost at No. 3 singles against Robyn Cotney, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, while the No. 2 doubles fell in a pro set, 8-3.
Going into Tuesday, Coach Hall believes her team has yet to play its best tennis.
“The girls feel they can play better,” explained Coach Hall. “At districts, there were a lot of nerves.”
On whether the March 21 win over Springstead serves as an advantage, “I don’t consider it an advantage,” said Hall. “Some of our girls beat some girls in districts they had lost to during the regular season. Now, does the previous win calm some nerves? I would think so.”
On the Lady Panthers’ goal, “We’d love to take the whole team to states,” shared Hall. “To do that, we’ve got to win twice. Win or lose I’m really proud of this group. I’ve been around some of these kids since seventh grade. If they want to go to states they’re going to have to go out there and dig deep.”
Springstead’s first-year mentor Rick Scholl is living a dream. Never before has a Springstead female tennis team gone past districts. It’s all new terrain.
Scholl, who serves as a tennis professional at Sugarmill Woods in Homosassa, knows the Lecanto players all too well.
Scholl points out that in the last meeting with the Lady Panthers, Springstead was playing its fourth match of a grueling week while Lecanto was fresh.
Most importantly, Springstead played without starter Sara Guerrero, so he had to alter his singles and doubles lineup.
According to Scholl, Springstead’s lineup is fortified top to bottom.
Springstead enters with its exact district lineup. In singles No. 1-5, look for sophomore Bryn Buckner (6-10), sophomore Scarlett Semack (15-3), Guerrero (10-5), the junior Cotney (17-0) and sophomore Ashley Clark (10-0).
In doubles, look for Buckner/Guerrero (7-6) at No. 1 and Semack/Cotney (13-1) at No. 2.
How well are the Lady Eagles playing?
Consider going back 10 years, Springstead had captured one district title – Michelle Gimble at No. 3 singles in 2002 under Louise Harres (now Louise Downey).
The Lady Eagles host the Lady Panthers with four district champions including: Semack, Cotney and Clark in singles and Semack/Cotney at No. 2 doubles.
On forecasting the match, “I think I know that team pretty well,” said Scholl. “I see those kids a lot working in Citrus County. I think their strength lies at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles – that’s three points. Theoretically, all they need to do is to find one more point to win any match.
“I think this time could be different,” explained Scholl. “Last time, it was our fourth match in the toughest week of our season. We were shorthanded, too, without Sara. And really, our lineup is completely different with her in there.”
On the keys to a supreme upset, “We have to have a consistent performance from kids like Semack and Guerrero,” noted Scholl. “Our 4-5 singles have played consistent since that match – we need that to continue on Tuesday.”
On combating the dear-in-the-headlights stigma of their first regional appearance, “The kids didn’t seem nervous in districts even though we had a few hiccups,” said Scholl. “From the first meeting I had with this group, they’ve bought into what I’ve been preaching. I’d really like to see it continue.”
At a Glance
What – Class 3A, Region III Girls Tennis Semifinal
Who – 3A-5 runner-up Lecanto Lady Panthers (10-2) vs. 3A-6 champion Springstead Lady Eagles (13-3)
Where – Delta Woods Park
When – Tuesday at 3 p.m.
At Stake – Winner advances to Thursday’s 3A-III final against the survivor of Land O’ Lakes at Ocala-Forest.
Tale Of The Tape: Lecanto at Springstead
No. 1 – LEC: Amber Gamble, 12th, 11-1 vs. SPG: Bryn Buckner, 10th, 6-10.
No. 2 – LEC: Madison Gamble, 10th, 11-1 vs. SPG: Scarlett Semack, 10th, 15-3.
No. 3 – LEC: Simi Shah, 10th, 9-2 vs. SPG: Sara Guerrero, 10th, 10-5.
No. 4 – LEC: Megan Jervis, 10th, 8-3 vs. Robyn Cotney, 11th, 17-0.
No. 5 – LEC: Andrea DelaCruz, 11th, 3-1 vs. SPG: Ashley Clark, 10th, 10-0.
No. 1 – LEC: A. Gamble/M. Gamble, 10-2 vs. SPG: Buckner/Guerrero, 7-6.
No. 2 – LEC: Shah/Jervis, 6-2 vs. SPG: Semack/Cotney, 13-1
What – Class 2A, Region III Girls Tennis Semifinal
Who – 2A-5 runner-up Hernando Lady Leopards (11-1) vs. 2A-5 champion Gainesville-Eastside Lady Rams (4-6).
Where – Northside Park Tennis Courts, at the corner of NW 34th St. and NW 13th St., Gainesville.
When – Tuesday at 4 p.m.
At Stake – Winner advances to Thursday’s 2A-III final against the survivor of Belleview at Pasco
Tale Of The Tape: Hernando at Eastside
No. 1 – HER: Grace Curren, 9th, 13-2 vs. EAST: Emily Louie-Meadors, 9th, 10-2.
No. 2 – HER: Shelby Marrero, 12th, 14-1 vs. EAST: Alexandra Sourakov, 11th, 9-2.
No. 3 – HER: Lida Marie Steinkamp, 11th, 12-3 vs. EAST: Antonia Veltcheva, 12th, 6-5.
No. 4 – HER: Shelby Smith, 11th, 6-5 vs. EAST: Murielle LeMaire, 10th, 5-4.
No. 5 – HER: Caitlynn Nixon, 9th, 8-4 vs. EAST: Angel Liu, 11th, 8-2.
No. 1 – HER: Curren/Marrero, 13-1 vs. EAST: Louie-Meadors/Sourakov, 10-1.
No. 2 – HER: Steinkamp/Smith, 4-3 vs. EAST: Amaleah Mirti/Christine Pu, 6-2.