A year ago, Zephyrhills departed West Pasco County with the district championship trophy following the eight-team Class 3A, District 6 Tournament.
Moreover, Land O’ Lakes needed a tense third-day tiebreaker over Central to finish as district runner-up.
On the 98th and final match Wednesday afternoon at the James Valentine Sports Complex at River Ridge, Central needed one win to force another tie with (whom else?) Land O’ Lakes.
But Gator frosh Deneen Wang at No. 3 singles edged Lady Bear senior Brittany Blackburn, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, to clinch Land O’ Lakes’ second straight second-place finish over Central, 11-9.
Central had its opportunities, but dropped four finals bouts including Blackburn’s.
By comparison, the day belonged to upstart Springstead.
A year ago, Coach Hank Deslaurier Sr.’s Lady Eagles placed sixth out of eight teams. One player – Rachel Simone – reached the tourney finals at No. 5. She lost.
This time, Simone didn’t even suit up for Springstead. Four returning starters, however, did.
First-year skipper Rick Scholl, whose team did not drop one 3A-6 regular-season match, captured the school’s first-ever district championship with 14 points.
Coach Karen Turman’s Lady Gators finished with 11 markers followed by Central (nine), Leesburg (six), Mitchell (four), Zephyrhills (three), River Ridge and Sunlake (one point apiece).
“It was a three-horse race until midway through the second day,” pointed out Coach Scholl. “I think when our No. 2 doubles team survived its first-set disaster to beat Central; it took some steam from their sails.
“On the first day we got two big wins from Bryn (Buckner) and Sara (Guerrero),” said Scholl. “We had so many heroes pull through.”
On Scarlett Semack, “What a solid effort,” described Scholl. “There were times she couldn’t breathe out there. But she desperately wanted to win for the team.”
On Robyn Cotney, “Played tough in singles and doubles for us,” noted Scholl. “She never backed down.”
On Ashley Clark, “She probably didn’t deserve to have to fight her way into the tournament like she did last week in our challenge matches,” said Scholl. “She’s only a sophomore, but we’re already looking forward to her playing fulltime.”
On capturing the school’s first district crown, “I’m ecstatic right now,” said Scholl. “I’m so very happy for these girls.”
With the win, the Lady Eagles (13-2) will again navigate through uncharted waters by hosting a Class 3A, Region III semifinal next Tuesday at Delta Woods Parks against 3A-5 runner-up Lecanto.
Interestingly, the Lady Panthers snapped Springstead’s10-match winning skein on March 21 in Citrus County, 5-2.
The unseeded Clark was the team’s first district champion. She opened the meet by stuffing Mitchell frosh Hannah Lewis, 6-0, 6-0, before erasing the No. 2 seed Sophie Pawlak of Land O’ Lakes, 6-4, 6-1.
In the finals, she faced Central’s talented freshman Vanessa Valencia.
For the second time in two meetings – coincidentally Valencia’s two losses – Clark (10-0) easily won, 6-1, 6-1.
“I thought I was playing pretty good,” said the 15-year-old Clark. “I tried to stay away from making unforced errors.”
On the key to the finals win, she added, “As the match went on, she (Valencia) got upset. She made a lot more mistakes. I won today, but she’s an amazing player and only a freshman. I can’t wait to see her play down the road; she’s going to be even tougher.”
Cotney, who went 1-1 in districts in 2012, finished 3-0 this time.
On Tuesday, the top-seeded Cotney spanked Sunlake senior Katarina Parise, 6-0, 6-0, before ousting Land O’ Lakes junior Joslyn Lafond, 6-3, 6-2.
In the finals, Cotney (17-0) defeated Central senior and defending district champion Jordan Stenholm for the second time in two meetings, 6-0, 6-0.
“This tournament was challenging,” declared the 17-year-old Cotney. “After my doubles match, my feet were killing me. I thought Jordan played really well. It wasn’t like I beat her 40-love, 40-love. I thought she played her best.”
On what’s next, “There’s always room for improvement,” said Cotney. “Today was an amazing day. Right now, I just want us to play the best we can next Tuesday. I’m amazed at how far this team has come in a year. Right now, we’re on top of the world.”
Like Clark and Cotney, Semack rolled up a 3-0 slate in singles.
As the top seed on Tuesday, Semack drilled Jessica Jermer of Sunlake, 6-0, 6-1, before eliminating Central sophomore Nicole Carrier via default, 6-2, 1-2.
In the finals, Semack (15-3) trimmed unseeded Mitchell senior Jessica Gilmor, 6-4, 6-2.
Gilmore had opened the tourney by shocking second-seeded Lady Gator junior Cori Arndt, 6-3, 1-0 before she defaulted.
“It was a long journey (to win her singles blue ribbon),” explained the 16-year-old Semack. “Coach had us run a half-mile and we did suicides to get here. I think all that preparation helped us today. It’s like all that hard work we put in got justified.
On her capturing her second district title – the first in No. 2 doubles – “I’m so tired and shocked. But this means a lot,” stressed Semack.
In Tuesday at No. 2 doubles, the second-seeded Semack/Cotney eliminated Mitchell’s Erica Disbro/Hannah Lewis, 6-1, 6-3, before slipping past Land O’ Lakes’ Anne Schwartz/Sophie Pawlak, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
In the finals, Semack/Cotney (13-1) avenged their only loss to Central’s top-seeded Blackburn/Stenholm, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
“I thought we got too excited early in the match,” recalled Cotney. “We were up 5-2 and then they came back on us. I thought we were too cocky. From there, we concentrated on placement.”
“At one point, I stop caring and started hitting the ball,” recalled Semack. “Right now, I’m on cloud nine. To beat Central was special; this was personal. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point. I think a lot of credit belongs to Coach Scholl. Last year, we didn’t have a chance here. Now, look at us.”
3A-6 Girls Tennis Tourney at New Port Richey-River Ridge Middle/High School
PL. TEAM POINTS
1. Spring Hill-Springstead (SPG) 14
2. Land O’ Lakes (LOL) 11
3. Brooksville-Central (CEN) 9
4. Leesburg (LEES) 6
5. New Port Richey-Mitchell (MIT) 4
6. Zephyrhills (ZEP) 3
7. New Port Richey-River Ridge (RR) 1
7. Land O’ Lakes-Sunlake (SNL) 1
Springstead’s 3A-6 Individual Results
Singles W L PL
Bryn Buckner 0 1 -
Scarlett Semack 3 0 1st
Sara Guerrero 1 1 -
Robyn Cotney 3 0 1st
Ashley Clark 3 0 1st
TOTALS 10 3
Doubles W L PL
Buckner/Guerrero 1 1 -
Semack/Cotney 3 0 1st
TOTALS 4 1
Central’s 3A-6 Individual Results
Singles W L PL
Danielle Daly 0 1 -
Nicole Carrier 1 1 -
Brittany Blackburn 2 1 2nd
Jordan Stenholm 2 1 2nd
Vanessa Valencia 2 1 2nd
TOTALS 7 5 -
Doubles W L PL
Daly/Carrier 0 1 -
Blackburn/Stenholm 2 1 2nd
Kavya Avancha (LOL) def. Sydney Owens (ZEP), 6-0, 6-0.
Jackie Simpson (SNL) def. Keegan McQuillen (RR), 6-1, 6-2.
Samantha Page (MIT) def. Danielle Day (CEN), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
Janelle Taylor (LEES) def. Bryn Buckner (SPG), 6-1, 6-0.
Kavya Avancha (LOL) def. Jackie Simpson (SNL), 6-3, 6-4.
Janelle Taylor (LEES) def. Samantha Page (MIT), 6-1, 6-1.
Janelle Taylor (LEES) def. Kavya Avancha (LOL), 6-1, 7-6 (7-1).
Scarlett Semack (SPG) def. Jessica Jermer (SNL), 6-0, 6-1.
Nicole Carrier (CEN) def. Hannah Ungerer (ZEP), 6-4, 6-3.
Ashton Thomas (LEES) def. Banya Vega (RR), 6-1, 6-4.
Jessica Gilmor (MIT) def. Cori Arndt (LOL), 6-3, 1-0 default.
Scarlett Semack (SPG) def. Nicole Carrier (CEN), 6-2, 1-2 defualt.
Jessica Gilmor (MIT) def. Ashton Thomas (LEES), 6-2, 6-2.
Scarlett Semack (SPG) def. Jessica Gilmor (MIT). 6-4, 6-2.
Brittany Blackburn (CEN) def. Jaclyn Zink-Pituskin (RR), 6-0, 6-2.
Olivia Batshon (MIT) def. Miah Bradley (LEES), 6-2, 7-5.
Sara Guerrero (SPG) def. Katelyn Jackson (SNL), 6-0, 6-2.
Deneen Wang (LOL) def. Samantha Solmonson (ZEP), 6-3, 6-4.
Brittany Blackburn (CEN) def. Olivia Batshon (MIT), 6-3, 6-4.
Deneen Wang (LOL) def. Sara Guerrero (SPG), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Deneen Wang (LOL) def. Brittany Blackburn (CEN), 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
Robyn Cotney (SPG) def. Katarina Parise (SNL), 6-0, 6-0.
Joslyn Lafond (LOL) def. Erica Disbro, 6-4, 6-3.
Alyssa Angelo (ZEP) def. Jessie Stegner (LEES), 6-4, 6-3.
Jordan Stenholm (CEN) def. Justine Vega (RR), 6-4, 6-1.
Robyn Cotney (SPG) def. Joslyn Lafond (LOL), 6-3, 6-2.
Jordan Stenholm (CEN) def. Alyssa Angelo (ZEP), 6-2, 6-0.
Robyn Cotney (SPG) def. Jordan Stenholm (CEN), 6-0, 6-0.
Vanessa Valencia (CEN) def. Savannah Anderson (ZEP), 6-0, 6-0.
Katelyn Torres (RR) def. Jahel Flor (SNL), 6-2, 6-3.
Ashley Clark (SPG) def. Hannah Lewis (MIT), 6-0, 6-0.
Sophie Pawlak (LOL) def. Morgan Stegner (LEES), 6-0, 6-0.
Vanessa Valencia (CEN) def. Katelyn Torres (RR), 6-1, 6-0.
Ashley Clark (SPG) def. Sophie Pawlak (LOL), 6-4, 6-1.
Ashley Clark (SPG) def. Vanessa Valencia (CEN), 6-1, 6-1.
Owens/Ungerer (ZEP) def. Simpson/Jermer (SNL), 6-2, 6-2.
Buckner/Guerrero (SPG) def. Daly/Carrier (CEN), 6-2, 6-4.
Taylor/J. Stegner (LEES) def. McQuillan/B. Vega (RR), 6-2, 6-1
Avancha/Arndt (LOL) def. Page/Gilmore (MIT), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Owens/Ungerer (ZEP) def. Buckner/Guerrero (SPG), 6-3, 6-4.
Avancha/Arndt (LOL) def. Taylor/J. Stegner (LEES), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Avancha/Arndt (LOL) def. Owens/Ungerer (ZEP), 6-4, 6-4.
Blackburn/Stenholm (CEN) def. Jackson/Parise (SNL), 6-0, 6-1
Thomas/Bradley (LEES) def. Solmonson/Angelo (ZEP), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Pawlak/Anne Schwartz (LOL) def. Zink-Pituskin/Torres (RR), 6-0, 6-0.
Semack/Cotney (SPG) def. Lewis/Disbro (MIT), 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
Blackburn/Stenholm (CEN) def. Thomas/Bradley (LEES), 6-2, 6-1.
Semack/Cotney (SPG) def. Pawlak/Anne Schwartz (LOL), 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
Semack/Cotney (SPG) def. Blackburn/Stenholm (CEN), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.