Two complete Hernando County teams, plus Hernando High's finest female netter, departed Seminole County after four days of exhausting state tennis yielding one victory in 16 matches.
The rough week began Monday at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford when Hernando sophomore Grace Curren's 12-match win streak came to a grinding halt.
Curren (17-2) fell to St. Augustine-Pedro Menendez senior Jordan Zander in the opening round of the 76th Class 2A individual singles tourney, 6-2, 6-3.
It was Curren's second straight trip to states, but the first in singles action. Last season, Curren and Shelby Marrero finished 1-1 at No. 1 doubles.
First-year Lady Leopard mentor Connie Foster believed Curren left her best effort on the court.
"States was definitely all new to me," explained Foster, a mathematics instructor at HHS. "Grace was kind of nervous, but she played really well. The other girl knew how to work the ball. Grace still gave it 110 percent."
Afterward Foster thought the experience helped the two bond.
"What I took away from the experience was we definitely bonded," pointed out Foster. "Grace came out of this talking about upping her experience with a series of summer camps.
"Next year, you may not see a totally new Grace, but you'll see some changes."
Despite the setback, Curren's confidence wasn't crushed.
"I thought I played above my game," detailed the 16-year-old Curren, who is the county's defending Player of the Year. "Man, did I hustle today. That's the most running I've ever done in a match.
"She really hit good angled shots and I'm not used to that," described Curren. "Her first serves were hard to return, but she never aced me. She was definitely the best player I played this year."
On the lessons learned at states, "I need to work harder in the offseason. And I need to face tougher people to be able to compete at this level," she replied. "I don't have any regrets. A lot of people don't get this far, but it was a great opportunity."
? ? ?
Across Monday and Tuesday, co-Hernando County, district and regional champion Nature Coast Technical finished in eighth place out of eight teams in the 2A team competition at Casselberry's Red Bug Lake Park.
Pinecrest-Gulliver Prep captured the 2A state crown with 21 points followed by Gainesville-Eastside's 12 points.
In the Sharks' sixth representation at states over the past nine years, NCT netters posted a combined 1-7 slate (13 percent).
Since 2007's first trip to states, NCT netters are a combined 3-28 (10 percent) against elite-level competition.
"I thought our draw was pretty good, it could have been a whole lot worse," explained NCT's ninth-year skipper Tom Brown. "I thought Charles (Buckner) played great. A couple of close calls were tough to overcome. Overall, he played wonderfully."
Brown added that, "Jesse (DeWitt) held his own and battled well and Alec (Lund) was nervous early on, but the other kid got under his skin and that's when he started a comeback. He did a tremendous job of extending points."
Though the results did not indicate it, Brown believed the experience will serve his program well.
"Truthfully, making states was a big deal," he said. "Once we got here, the kids realize they can compete at this level. With what happened will serve as motivation to help us work harder.
"I think everyone's eyes opened when they saw the caliber of play at this level," detailed Brown. "I think the guys had a real good experience and it should serve us well down the road."
This week, NCT's lone victory belonged to junior Alec Lund (14-4), who solved Gulf Breeze junior Alexander Thompson at No.4 singles, 6-1, 6-2, 10-8.
Lund was ousted in the state semifinal by Riviera Beach-Suncoast junior Matthew Rodriguez, 6-0, 6-0.
No other Shark captured their first-round match.
DeWitt (16-4) at No. 1 singles fell to Eastside's talented junior Camille Kima, 6-4, 6-0.
At No. 2 singles, Jacksonville-Stanton junior and second-seeded Parker Lepore torpedoed junior Conner Schwefringhaus (14-4), 6-0, 6-3.
Tampa-Jesuit junior Alex Crosby, who had spanked sophomore Dakota Willey (13-6) during the regular season, 6-2, 6-1, smothered him at No. 3 singles again, 6-0, 6-1.
Suncoast Chargers senior Patrick Villanueva needed three sets to edge Buckner (11-3) at No. 5 singles, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.
At No. 1 doubles, Tampa-Jesuit's duo of juniors Max Azzarelli and Palmer Evans hammered DeWitt and Schwefringhaus (12-2), 6-0, 6-1.
Gulf Breeze's No. 2 doubles tandem of Thompson/Joel Boles dismissed Jerry Bianculli/Nick Pais (2-2), 6-0, 6-1.
? ? ?
Springstead's first-ever trip to states was dampened before the Eagles even stepped on to the courts Wednesday at Altamonte Springs' Sanlando Park.
Veteran SHS mentor Joe Nicolai said, "We had the worst draw imaginable."
In Tuesday's seeding meeting, SHS drew three No. 1 seeds and one No. 2 in the school's first-ever visit as a full team in 33 seasons to the 3A state finals.
The co-Hernando County, district and regional champion Eagles departed with a humbling 0-7 slate.
"No matter what happened, I'm so proud of these kids," declared Nicolai. "We had a great season. We fought hard to get here. Being here is an honor. Being among the state's elite eight is special. A lot of teams here are always here.
"I can't fault the guys at all," added Nicolai. "They fought hard against insurmountable odds. I've been here before and I just told the guys to go out there play the best they can. Based on the draw, we knew our chances of winning were slim. I'm not going to take anything away from these kids."
Third-seeded Tampa-King sophomore Vignesh Bhethanabolta clubbed Eagle junior Patrick Deslaurier (14-7) at No. 1 singles, 6-1, 6-0.
At No. 2 singles, third-seeded Wiregrass Ranch sophomore Pedro Fernandez del Valle whacked Springstead senior Hank Deslaurier Jr. (15-3), 6-0, 6-1.
Hank Deslaurier entered states riding an eight-match win skein following March 13's 6-3, 6-2 loss to Lecanto junior Sam Alford at Delta Woods Park.
SHS junior Robbie Hoover (12-7) was clubbed by top-seeded Wiregrass Ranch junior Foresight Okungbowa at No. 3 singles, 6-1, 6-0.
Eagle freshman Alex Hoover (18-1) suffered his first-ever prep loss at the hands of second-seeded Palm Coast-Matanzas freshman Sidney Moon, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 4.
As a result, Hoover fell one win shy of tying the school's single-season record for most wins (19) held by Patrick Deslaurier.
At No. 5 singles, Eagle frosh Sam DeAngelis (13-6) was hammered by top-seeded Wiregrass Ranch sophomore Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez, 6-0, 6-0.
Miami-Mourning juniors Samuel Prudhomme and Pablo Sanchez eliminated SHS' No. 1 doubles duo of Patrick Deslaurier and Robbie Hoover (7-9), 6-1, 6-4.
At No. 2 doubles, top-seeded Wiregrass Ranch juniors Okungbowa and Alejandro Feliciano handed Hank Desluarier and Alex Hoover (16-1) their first loss of the season, 6-0, 6-0.
92nd Class 3A FHSAA Finals
Springstead at Altamonte Springs' Sanlando Park
No. 1 - Vignesh Bhethanabolta (Tampa-King) def. Patrick Deslaurier (SPG), 6-1, 6-0.
No. 2 - Pedro Fernandez del Valle (Wiregrass Ranch) def. Hank Deslaurier (SPG), 6-0, 6-1.
No. 3 - Foresight Okungbowa (Wiregrass Ranch) def. Robbie Hoover (SPG), 6-1, 6-0.
No. 4 - Sidney Moon (Palm Coast-Matanzas) def. Alex Hoover (SPG), 6-0, 6-1.
No. 5 - Sam DeAngelis (SPG) vs. Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez (Wiregrass Ranch), 6-0, 6-0.
No. 1 - Samuel Prudhomme/Pablo Sanchez (North Miami-Mourning) def. P. Deslaurier/R. Hoover (SPG), 6-1, 6-4.
No. 2 - Alejandro Feliciano/Okungbowa (Wiregrass Ranch) def. H. Deslaurier/A. Hoover (SPG), 6-0, 6-0.
92th Class 2A FHSAA Finals
at Casselberry's Red Bug Lake Park
No. 1 - Camille Kima (Gainesville-Eastside) def. Jesse DeWitt (NCT), 6-4, 6-0.
No. 2 - Parker Lepore (Jacksonville-Stanton) def. Conner Schwefringhaus (NCT), 6-0, 6-3.
No. 3 - Alex Crosby (Tampa-Jesuit) def. Dakota Willey (NCT), 6-0, 6-1.
No. 4 - Alec Lund (NCT) def. Alexander Thompson (Gulf Breeze), 1-6, 6-2, 10-8.
No. 4 - Laurentiu Schintele (Pinecrest-Gulliver Prep) def. Alec Lund (NCT), 6-0, 6-0.
No. 5 - Patrick Villanueve (Riviera Beach-Suncoast) def. Charles Buckner (NCT), 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.
No. 1 - Max Azzarelli/Palmer Evans (Tampa-Jesuit) def. DeWitt/C. Schwefringhaus (NCT), 6-0, 6-1.
No. 2 - Joel Boles/Alexander Thompson (Gulf Breeze) vs. Jerry Bianculli/Nick Pais (NCT), 6-0, 6-1.
76th annual Class 2A FHSAA Finals
at Sanford's Sylvan State Park.
No. 1 - Jordan Zander (Pedro Menendez) def. Grace Curren (HER), 6-2, 6-3.