HUDSON - Move over, Gary Cooper. "High Noon" has been switched to 3 p.m. Thursday in East Pasco County.
That's when the two top teams in Class 2A, District 7 girls tennis will settle a score.
The first entry into the 2A-Region IV final - Pasco - vanquished Tarpon Springs on Tuesday, 7-0.
By comparison, Hernando had difficulty playing its regional semifinal.
After getting rained out on Tuesday, Hernando journeyed Wednesday to West Pasco County to face upstart Fivay.
But a menacing rain cloud settled over the Falcon courts dropping rain and hail and forcing FHS athletic director Linda McQuade and a crew of helpers to work almost 90 minutes to prepare the courts to play.
At the completion of four singles matches, 2A-8 champion Fivay was tied with 2A-7 runner-up Hernando at two matches apiece.
What eventually tipped the scales was the completion of an epic 2½-hour No. 2 singles match pitting Fivay senior Amber Mariano and Hernando junior Jada Bergstrom.
Bergstrom (6-9 overall) outlasted Mariano (10-4), 6-4, 6-7 (3-6), 6-2.
"The longest match I ever played was six hours," pointed out the 17-year-old Bergstrom, who missed three-quarters of last season to a severe leg injury. "I was kind of exhausted when I finished. The big thing for me today was I pushed through the pain. It was a terrific match because she was real competitive."
On the match's significance, "I finally got it done after 2 1/2 hours," said Bergstrom. "I really thought we both played well. Mentally I was where I needed to be."
Riding the momentum of Bergstrom's upset win, HHS trimmed FHS in both doubles matches in straight sets to eliminate the Lady Falcons, 5-2.
FHS' (9-3) victories belonged to Ashleigh Day (11-3) over Lady Leopard senior Lida Marie Steinkamp (10-3) at No. 3 singles, 6-2, 6-1, and junior Breanna Tonello (12-2) solving HHS senior Shelby Smith (8-5) at No. 4 singles, 6-3, 6-1.
Besides Bergstrom's win, Lady Leopard frosh Amber Haisley (10-6) pushed Lady Falcon senior Alyssa Dierking (10-1) out of the unbeaten ranks behind a solid 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 5 singles.
"I really worked at staying positive," stressed the 14-year-old Haisley. "I told myself 'I'm not giving up,' and I was going to make her run."
In describing the previously unbeaten Dierking, "She's pretty good," said Haisley. "I thought I played at her level."
At No. 1 singles, Lady Leopard sophomore Grace Curren (16-1) got the Lady Leopards (9-5) off on the right foot behind a 45-minute triumph over Lady Falcon senior Esther Eaton (4-8), 6-1, 6-1. The victory was Curren's personal-best 11th in a row.
"She had some good shots," pointed out the 16-year-old Curren. "Today I felt a little off."
On what Curren took away from the match, "Last year, we didn't win one regional match, so it's nice to win," she said. "I'm looking forward to Thursday; we all are. Our team wants to redeem themselves."
At No. 1 doubles, Curren/Bergstrom (12-3) topped Mariano/Day, 6-0, 6-3.
Steinkamp/Smith at No. 2 doubles dispatched Tonello/Courtney Watson, 6-1, 6-4.
With the win, Hernando will travel to Dade City Thursday to face Pasco in the 2A-IV final.
The two teams opened the season Feb. 4 with Pasco prevailing, 5-2. Two Lady Leopard starters, however, were not present for the match.
Despite the setback, FHS mentor Erica Goodell believed her team did not throw in the towel.
"We played almost the same exact team last year and lost, 7-0," remarked Goodell. "Had we won that tiebreaker at No.2 singles, who knows what happens? At least we didn't get beat 6-1, 6-0 like we did last time.
"Even though we lost, we've really improved a lot. I can't ask for much more than my girls gave today."
First-year Lady Leopard mentor Connie Foster praised the Lady Leopards' growth.
"We've gotten better every week. We even improved from last week's district tournament," she described. "At practice all we worked on was working on everyone's weaknesses - whatever they are. That showed up today; there was tremendous improvement."
Foster gave a game ball to Bergstrom.
"Jada's struggled this year with her consistency," she said. "But you couldn't tell it today. She battled. She got more comfortable with herself."
On peering toward the Lady Pirates, "I like challenges," explained Foster. "Our girls know we're one step away from states. And states start Monday and we want to take the whole team."
Hernando 5, Fivay 2
No. 1 - Grace Curren (HER) def. Esther Eaton, 6-1, 6-1.
No. 2 - Jada Bergstrom (HER) def. Amber Mariano, 6-4, 6-7 (3-6), 6-2.
No. 3 - Ashleigh Day (FIV) def. Lida Marie Steinkamp, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 4 - Breanna Tonello (FIV) def. Shelby Smith, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 5 - Amber Haisley (HER) def. Alyssa Dierking, 6-4, 6-3.
No. 1 - Curren/Bergstrom (HER) def. Mariano/Day, 6-0, 6-3.
No. 2 - Steinkamp/Smith (HER) def. Tonello/Watson, 6-1, 6-4.
Records - Hernando (9-5), Fivay (9-3).