Hernando High’s No. 1 doubles team extended its brief stay a few hours during Wednesday’s Class 2A FHSAA Finals at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford.
The unseeded Lady Leopards’ duo of freshman Grace Curren and senior Shelby Marrero finished 1-1 in the single-elimination event in Seminole County.
HHS, the Class 2A, District 6 champions, barely avoided going one-and-done when Curren was hampered by a severe stomach virus.
According to the Purple and Gold’s seventh-year mentor Pete Lahey, “Grace had been throwing up all morning,” said Lahey. “Everything she tried to eat or drink came up; it was awful. She pretty much just sucked on ice. But give Grace credit, she wasn’t 100 percent yet she willed herself to continue.”
In the opening round, HHS edged the 2A-2 champs from Tallahassee-Florida High, Kellen McCarthy/Taylor Snipes, 4-6, 6-1, 10-8.
The Leon County sophomores led 6-2 in the third set before HHS rallied to win in a tiebreaker, 10-8.
“Even though they were down 6-2 in the last set, our girls clawed back,” noted Lahey. “The biggest thing down the stretch was they kept the ball in play and both served a little better.”
In a mid-afternoon match, HHS faced the state’s top-ranked squad from nearby Orlando, the Lady Lions from Lake Nona.
Junior Priyanka Shah and senior Maria Cespedes ousted Curren/Marrero, 6-0, 6-2.
“We saw them play earlier; they looked tough,” described Coach Lahey. “There’s a reason why they’re No. 1. Hopefully, the girls learn from this experience.
“In the afternoon, Grace had trouble even moving,” noted Lahey. “Shelby tried to encourage her and cover for her as much as she could. If Grace is 100 percent, we could have played them better. Credit Shelby for picking up the slack and not throwing in the towel.”
“There’s no shame losing to the best doubles team in the state,” pointed out Lahey. “These girls still had a good season (finishing 14-3 overall). It was a heck of a run to get here.
“Shelby’s a senior, but she can hold her head high. I thought she played really well, especially under these conditions,” Lahey said. “A lot of credit belongs to Grace for toughing it out.”
“We were OK today,” described the 18-year-old Marrero. “Sure, we could have done better if Grace had felt better. Late in the second match, she could barely move. The other team was acing her.
“I told Grace, I don’t care the final score, I’m proud of her no matter what,” said Marrero. “Any lesser person would have called it a day. I tried to encourage her as best I could and take it one point at a time.”
After looking the mirror, “I had my mistakes, too,” described the rare four-year Lady Leopard starter. “I had a great time playing here. It’s sad that Grace didn’t enjoy it as much.”
On evaluating the Lady Leopards’ performance against the state’s best, “Honestly, I didn’t know they were the No. 1 seed till after the match,” she said. “I can tell you they were much better than even Eastside was. They have good placements and play so much better at the net.
“This (loss) isn’t what we wanted, but I can honestly tell you we tried our absolute best,” Marrero said. “I’m not upset especially under these conditions. It was my first state finals and I’m very happy with how we competed.”
Class 2A FHSAA Finals
at Sanford-Sylvan Lake Park
No. 1 – Grace Curren/Shelby Marrero (Hernando) def. Kellen McCarthy/Taylor Snipes (Tallahassee-Florida High), 4-6, 6-1, 10-8.
No. 1 – Priyanka Shah/Maria Cespedes (Orlando-Lake Nona) def. Curren/Marrero (Hernando), 6-0, 6-2.