LECANTO - In a pre-tournament field that was labeled too close to call, Springstead netters did the unprecedented.
Thursday evening at Lecanto High, Springstead completed its mission of garnering back-to-back district titles for the first time in 33 seasons.
The Spring Hill netters clinched the Class 3A, District 5 Tournament boys draw on Wednesday evening by being represented in a school-record five singles finals and both doubles finals.
At the conclusion of the grueling, three-day, 10-team tournament on the Panthers' 10 courts, the Mariner Boulevard crew claimed three district titles and scored a tourney-high 24 points.
Ocala-Forest clinched second place with 17 points, followed by Ocala-Vanguard (14), host Lecanto (11), Citrus (nine), Ocala-West Port and Groveland-South Lake tied for sixth (four), Leesburg (three), Lake Minneola (two) and Ocala-Lake Weir (one).
With the victory, the Hernando County co-champ Eagles (12-1 overall) will host next Tuesday's 3A-Region III semifinal at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill against 3A-6 runner-up Orlando-Edgewater.
The tourney win served as veteran SHS skipper Joe Nicolai's eighth career district title, including Springstead's first two crowns.
Nicolai had previously earned six district crowns as Central's girls mentor.
On his team's remarkable play, "I told the guys they exceeded my expectations for this tournament," explained Nicolai, who has now mentored 37 district champions (25 in singles, 12 in doubles) across 12 seasons. "This was a complete team victory."
In recapping the event, "We had a lot of guys down early who fought back and won matches," stressed Nicolai. "There was none bigger than Hank's first match, Robbie's semifinal and the No. 2 doubles semifinal win over Lecanto. That doubles match was epic because of the quality of kids Lecanto had in (Rishi) Gurnani and (Sam) Alford.
"There weren't really any surprises per se, but I thought this was some of the best doubles play I've ever seen from our guys," added Nicolai.
On Tuesday's regional prospects, "I'm sure whoever we play will be a great team," insisted Nicolai. "We really want to advance as far as we can go."
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Senior Hank Deslaurier's legacy continued to evolve in Citrus County.
The top-seeded Deslaurier finished 3-0 at No. 2 singles for his school-record fifth district championship blue ribbon.
He added a sixth title Thursday evening when he teamed with talented frosh Alex Hoover for an easier-than-expected triumph in No. 2 doubles over Forest's, Nick Wigelsworth/Grant Lovell, 6-4, 6-4.
The duo finished 3-0 in doubles to climb to 15-0 on the season. In regular-season play, Deslaurier/Hoover edged the Wildcat duo in three sets.
"It would have been nice to get eight district championships in high school, but I'll take six. Six is crazy," said the 18-year-old Deslaurier.
The doubles win was Deslaurier's school-record 56th matching his school-record 56 singles wins.
On solving the Wildcat duo in the finals, "Playing Forest is always tough," said Deslaurier. "It was nice to win a match in two sets. We tried some new things today and it seemed to work."
On his partner, he said, "Alex is a great partner. My strength isn't particularly at the net, but Alex is. So he makes a lot of plays I can't."
"We both played real well," said the 14-year-old Hoover. "But my strength lies in my ground strokes. Winning two district titles is pretty big."
In singles action, Deslaurier opened the meet by surviving a scare from Citrus junior Erik Vestervall, 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 and trimming Forest senior Nick Wigelsworth, 6-1, 6-1.
In a marathon finals match, Deslaurier needed three grueling sets to edge the Lecanto junior Alford, 6-2, 0-6, 10-5.
Alford had solved Deslaurier during the March 13 regular-season meeting at Delta Woods Park, 6-3, 6-2.
"I thought it went pretty well," countered the 17-year-old Alford, who was attempting to celebrate with a district title on his birthday. "I stuck to my game plan, but I was really, really tired. Hank's a good opponent, but I gave it everything I had.
"I'm thankful I didn't cramp out of the match."
"I played the first set so much better than the first time I saw him," declared Deslaurier, who improved to 13-2. "I thought he played a lot better in the second set. I always have tough, tight matches with Sam."
On the match's difference, "It was a district championship," replied Deslaurier, who improved to a school-record 56-13 lifetime (.811 percent), "so I had to up my intensity. Plus, he had beaten me before, so there was motivation."
After losing to a Wiregrass Ranch opponent in the second round of districts as a freshman, Deslaurier compiled a 9-0 run in district-tournament action for three straight district singles titles.
"Being a senior, it drives me a little more," insisted Deslaurier. "The fifth title is as big as the first. I just want to go out with a regional win - the school's never done that."
One thing Deslaurier never did was open his prep career with a district title, nor enter regionals unbeaten at 16-0.
That's exactly what the ex-Powell Middle School product Hoover has achieved so far this season at No. 4 singles.
The top-seeded Hoover opened the meet by ousting West Port senior Jaime Ramirez, 6-2, 6-2, before expunging Citrus junior Joe Kelly, 6-2, 6-1.
Hoover needed three sets to solve Vanguard frosh Ian Barckhausen, 6-2, 1-6, 10-8.
The victory permitted Hoover to become the second SHS freshman to ever earn a district title - joining Patrick Deslaurier (2012).
More importantly, Hoover has closed within three wins of tying the school record for most single-season victories (19) set by Patrick Deslaurier in 2012.
"It was a pretty big win because it was a district final," emphasized the 14-year-old Hoover.
In battling the dehydration problems many of the netters suffered at LHS, he said, "It was pretty hot out here. I was fortunate that my forehand was pretty good today. A win like this boosts my confidence."
SHS' No. 1 doubles team, Patrick Deslaurier/Robbie Hoover, fell in the finals to Forest's Austin Darden/Philip Libby in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.
Both Patrick Deslaurier and Robbie Hoover fell in their respective No. 1 and No. 3 singles finals.
"I fought the best I could (Wednesday)," explained the 17-year-old Patrick Deslaurier. "I was cramping up so bad. It was really tough to play that finals match; but I gave it all I had left."
On the team's performance, "We've got the potential to go to states," he said. "We have to fight just as hard next week as we did this week. Every win we got here got us closer to the trophy."
"I'm not OK with getting second twice," admitted the 17-year-old Robbie Hoover. "I felt I could have performed better. The weather was brutal; I was fortunate not to be one of those affected by cramping."
In judging the team's back-to-back district titles, "To me, this one was sweeter," pointed out Hoover. "There were a lot of tough teams here and it seemed like everyone was against us. Under those conditions, it was extremely gratifying to win here."
Class 3A, District 5 Boys Tennis Tournament
Final Team Standings
PL. TEAM POINTS
1. Springstead (SPG) 24
2. Ocala-Forest (OF) 17
3. Ocala-Vanguard (OV) 14
4. Lecanto (LEC) 11
5. Citrus (CIT) 9
6. Ocala-Lake Weir (LWR) 4
6. Groveland-South Lake (SL) 4
8. Leesburg (LEES) 3
9. Lake Minneola (LM) 2
10. Ocala-West Port (WP) 1
Springstead's Individual Results
Singles W L PL
Patrick Deslaurier 2 1 2nd
Hank Deslaurier 3 0 1st
Robbie Hoover 2 1 2nd
Alex Hoover 3 0 1st
Sam DeAngelis 2 1 2nd
TOTALS (5) 12 3
Doubles W L PL
P. Deslaurier/R. Hoover 2 1 2nd
H. Deslaurier/A. Hoover 3 0 1st
TOTALS (2) 5 1 -
Brady Hayes (CIT) def. Alex Slay (WP), 6-3, 6-2.
Brian Valenzuela (LWR) def. J. Michael Martz (LM), 6-0, 0-6, 10-6.
Alexander Wartels (OV) def. Brady Hayes (CIT), 6-1, 6-1.
Meet Patel (LEES) def. Peyton Maloney (SL), 6-4, 6-2.
Patrick Deslaurier (SPG) def. Brian Valenzuela (LWR), 6-0, 6-0.
Rishi Gurnani (LEC) def. Philip Libby (OF), 3-6, 6-2, 10-0.
Alexander Wartels (OV) def. Meet Patel (LEES), 6-0, 6-0.
Patrick Deslaurier (SPG) def. Rishi Gurnani (LEC), 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 10-1.
Alexander Wartels (OV) won via injury default over Patrick Deslaurier (SPG), 6-0, 3-0 retired.
Erik Vestervall (CIT) def. Dominic Ungson (LWR), 6-3, 6-1.
Cheroky Williams (LM) def. Tyler Johnson (SL), 6-1, 1-6, 10-8.
Hank Deslaurier (SPG) def. Erik Vestervall (CIT), 6-3, 3-6, 10-8.
Nick Wigelsworth (OF) def. Alan Shen (LEES), 6-0, 6-0.
Morgan Evans (OV) def. Cheroky Williams (LM), 6-1, 6-0.
Sam Alford (LEC) def. Zach Slay (WP), 6-0, 6-0.
Hank Deslaurier (SPG) def. Nick Wigelsworth (OF), 6-1, 6-1.
Sam Alford (LEC) def. Morgan Evans (OV), 2-6, 6-2, 10-4..
Hank Deslaurier (SPG) def. Sam Alford (LEC), 6-2, 0-6, 10-5.
Tyler Horn (SL) def. Brandon Wesley (LM), 6-4, 7-3.
Dhruv Patel (LEC) def. Alex Arbeiter (LWR), 6-4, 6-1.
Austin Darden (OF) def. Tyler Horn (SL), 6-0, 6-0.
Jarrod Muse (CIT) def. Lee Curry (LEES), 6-2, 6-2.
Robbie Hoover (SPG) def. Dhruv Patel (LEC), 6-2, 6-0.
Ty Wolter (OV) def. Sazion Winston (WP), 6-0, 6-2.
Austin Darden (OF) def. Jarrod Muse (CIT), 6-1, 6-0.
Robbie Hoover (SPG) def. Ty Wolter (OV), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 10-1.
Round 3: (Championship)
Austin Darden (OF) def. Robbie Hoover (SPG), 6-2, 7-5.
Jaime Ramirez (WP) def. Casey Fisher (SL), 6-4, 6-1.
Marshall King (LEC) def. Austin Dukeshire (LM), 6-2, 6-2.
Alex Hoover (SPG) def. Jaime Ramirez (WP), 6-2, 6-2.
Joe Kelly (CIT) def. Austin Barham (LEES), 6-2, 6-1.
Ian Barckhausen (OV) def. Marshall King (LEC), 6-3, 6-4.
Grant Lovell (OF) def. Shawn Mishr (LWR), 6-0, retire
Alex Hoover (SPG) def. Joe Kelly (CIT), 6-2, 6-1.
Ian Barckhausen (OV) def. Grant Lovell (OF), 6-3, 0-6, 12-10.
Alex Hoover (SPG) def. Ian Barckhausen (OV), 6-2, 1-6, 10-8.
David Olson (LM) won by forfeit over Devon Acosta (SL).
Sean Flaherty (CIT) def. Owen Bready (LEES), 6-0, 6-1.
Sam DeAngelis (SPG) def. David Olson (LM), 6-0, 6-2.
George Hirano (WP) def. Nick Levay (LWR), 6-4, 6-2.
Aaron Darden (OF) def. Sean Flaherty (CIT), 6-4, 6-1.
Rio Lumapas (LEC) def. Kevin Cusack (OV), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
Sam DeAngelis (SPG) def. George Hirano (WP), 6-1, 6-1.
Aaron Darden (OF) def. Rio Lumapas (LEC), 6-3, 6-0.
Aaron Darden (OF) def. Sam DeAngelis (SPG), 2-6, 6-4, 13-11.
Johnston/Maloney (SL) vs. D. Patel/Bready (LEES), 7-5, 6-4.
Gurnani/Alford (LEC) def. Slay/Slay (WP), 6-2, 6-0.
Austin Darden/Libby (OF) def. Johnston/Maloney (SL), 6-0, 6-0.
Hayes/Vestervall (CIT) def. Williams/Mortlock (LM), 6-0, 6-0.
Gurnani/Alford (LEC) def. Wartels/Wolter (OV), 4-6, 6-2, 10-5.
P. Deslaurier/R. Hoover (SPG) def. Ungson/Valenzuela (LWR), 6-0, 6-2.
Austin Darden/Libby (OF) def. Hayes/Vestervall (CIT), 6-0, 6-0.
P. Deslaurier/R. Hoover (SPG) def. Gurnani/Alford (LEC), 6-2, 7-5.
Austin Darden/Libby (OF) def. P. Deslaurier/R. Hoover (SPG), 7-5, 6-3.
Winston/Ramirez (WP) def. Arbeiter/Dudley (LWR), 6-1, 6-0.
Shen/Curry (LEES) def. Flaherty/Muse (CIT), 6-2, 6-7, 10-5.
H. Deslaurier/A. Hoover (SPG) def. Winston/Ramirez (WP), 6-0, 6-0.
Fisher/Horn (SL) def. McTigue/Holder (LM), Horn 6-4, 1-6, 10-8.
Wigelsworth/Lovell (OF) def. Shen/Curry (LEES), 6-1, 6-1.
Evans/Cusack (OV) def. D. Patel/King (LEC), 6-0, 6-2.
H. Deslaurier/A. Hoover (SPG) def. Fisher/Horn (SL), 6-0, 6-1.
Wigelsworth/Lovell (OF) def. Evans/Cusack (OV), 6-3, 6-0.
H. Deslaurier/A. Hoover (SPG) def. Wigelsworth/Lovell (OF), 6-4, 6-4.