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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Three schools represented at states

Hernando Today correspondent


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Hernando County will be represented by 11 tennis players - featuring two complete teams and Hernando High's No. 1 singles standout Grace Curren - in the FHSAA Finals in Seminole County.

On Monday, Curren will be the county's lone female in the 76th annual 2A state finals at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford.

Meanwhile, Nature Coast Technical's boys team will take the courts in the 92nd annual team competition beginning Monday at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry.

Rounding out the local entries, Springstead makes its state team debut on Tuesday in 3A at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

Each of the tourneys is single-elimination. To garner a state crown any individual player or doubles team would have to win a minimum of three matches.

No Hernando County netter has ever been crowned as an individual state champion.

Curren, a sophomore at 17-1, enters red hot riding a 12-match win skein. She defeated 2013 district champion Madison Johnson from Pasco Thursday afternoon in Dade City for a third time this season.

Last season, though Curren nearly defaulted due to a stomach virus, she and Shelby Marrero reached states at No. 1 doubles and went 1-1.

"I've never been at states, but Grace was there last year. She's really excited to go again," explained first-year HHS skipper Connie Foster. "She's got her mindset locked in at states.

"She's making sure that she's not sick this time. I think that will give her a fighting chance. She really wants to go college and play tennis," added Foster. "She'll play her little heart out."

For the sixth time in nine seasons, head coach Tom Brown's netters have reached the coveted state finals.

Coach Brown arrives with five district championships and a glossy 111-34 lifetime mark.

His players, however, haven't solved the complexities of states. Zenon Kouts' two singles wins in 2011-12 serve as the NCT's high-water mark.

"This was definitely our goal," pointed out Brown. "I do think my kids can compete. But I also know what our kids are looking at.

"We have the ability to play (at states), but we have shown a lack of consistency in playing out points," added Brown. "Our challenge beginning Monday is to compete for every point."

On the significance of going to states, "I can see it in our guys' faces," explained Brown. "They're all looking forward to it. We have to compete hitting the ground running. I'll measure our success based on how many games we can win."

In venturing to states, "I'd love to see someone get out of the first round," indicated Brown. "And I hope we have some guys play for more than 40 minutes - that's when I feel good about the experience."

Springstead's third-year mentor Joe Nicolai will tow the Eagles' first-ever team to states.

In nine seasons at Central, Nicolai guided the Lady Bears' program to six trips to states.

Freshman Alex Hoover (18-0) is one win shy of tying the school record for most wins in a season (19) set by Patrick Deslaurier.

Senior Hank Deslaurier arrives as the school record-holder in career singles wins (58) and doubles wins (57).

Last season, SHS' first-ever entry to states, its No. 1 doubles team of Patrick Deslaurier and Carl Zee, was shown the door after the first round by Tampa-Chamberlain's Joseph Fisher and Hunter O'Brien, 6-1, 6-1.

At a Glance

What - Boys and Girls Tennis FHSAA Finals

Who - Springstead boys in Class 3A; Nature Coast boys, Hernando's Grace Curren in 2A.

Where - Springstead at Altamonte Springs' Sanlando Park, 401 W. Highland St.; Nature Coast at Red Bug Lake Park, 3600 Red Bug Lake Road, Casselberry; Curren at Sylvan Lake Park, 845 Lake Markham Road, Sanford.

When - Monday through Wednesday

At Stake - Individual state championship

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