In 3A-5, Springstead
girls seeking first
title since 2013
By TONY CASTRO
Crystal River High School’s tennis courts will roll out the welcome mats for seven teams beginning Monday morning as the host of the three-day, Class 2A, District 7 Boys/Girls Tennis Tournaments.
The seven-team field in a single-elimination format features: Brooksville-Central, Brooksville-Hernando, Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical, Inverness-Citrus, Crystal River, Weeki Wachee and Zephyrhills.
The boys will play Monday and Tuesday while the girls will begin action on Tuesday and conclude on Wednesday (weather permitting).
Meanwhile at Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville, eight teams -including F.W. Springstead – will take part along the clay courts for the two-day, Class 3A, District 5 Tourney set for April 15-16.
The stakes are high.
Only the respective district team champion and district runner-up advance to April 23’s Class 2A, Region IV and the 3A, Region II Semifinals.
2A-7’s No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champs automatically advance to the FHSAA State Finals set for April 29 in Seminole County.
3A-5’s No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champs will begin play May 1 at the 3A State Finals in Sanlando Park In Seminole County.
In 2A-7, the defending boys champion is CRHS while NCT is the defending runner-up.
On the female side of the docket, the defending girls champion is Nature Coast, while Zephyrhills is the defending runner-up.
In Alachua County, Gainesville is the defending 3A-5 girls’ champion while Springstead is the defending district runner-up.
On the boys’ side, Ocala-Vanguard is the defending district champ while Ocala-Forest is the defending district runner-up.
At CRHS: Two-horse race
Along the Citrus County courts, the host CRHS Pirates appear as the odds=on favorite to repeat on the boys’ side.
CRHS opened the season Feb. 20 traveling to Brooksville to derail 15-3 Nature Coast, 4-2. Only the No. 5 singles match was not completed due to darkness.
In the return match on April 8, the Sharks returned the favor thanks to a 5-2 nod.
CRHS’ Aaron Cheek at No. 2 singles was the lone Pirate to capture both of his singles matches against NCT. So he’ll walk in as the top seed.
Meanwhile, CRHS‘ Trent Stukes and NCT‘s Roger Sniffen at No. 1 singles split their bouts.
Interestingly, neither won at No. 1 singles or No. 1 doubles against three-time defending district champion Jonathan Judy-Hansen of Zephyrhills.
The top seed at No. 3 singles appears to be Cayden Muir of NCT. Muir won the district championship at No. 5 singles last season.
At No. 4 singles, NCT freshman Quintin Hotop arrives 4-1. He dropped the initial meeting against CRHS’ Tyler Sandak, but claimed a win in the latest rematch.
NCT girls: split with CRHS
Just like with the boys, NCT’s girls, under Kristine Brown, split the seasonal series against the Pirates.
Crystal River claimed Round 1, 4-3.
But on April 5 in Brooksville, NCT trimmed the visiting Pirates, 5-2.
CRHS’ Maddie Lewis at No. 1 singles won both of her matches against NCT senior Sierra Remondelli – as no other Pirate achieved that feat.
Conversely, Angitha Reji at No. 3 singles and Selena Quach at No. 4 singles both swept their matches against the Pirates.
Quach arrives with NCT’s best record at 16-2, followed by Reji at 11-3 and Remondelli at 10-6.
NCT closed out its regular season schedule by trimming Zephyrhills, 4-3.
The Bulldogs are banking on seniors Hope Johnson at No. 1 and Paige Johnson at No. 2 singles and Johnson sisters combining forces at No. 1 doubles to pave the way to a district title.
At 12-6, the Lady Bulldogs finished 4-2 in 2A-7 action – losing only to NCT and CRHS.
Fifteenth-year ZHS Head Coach Lorraine Hinkle admits, “The teams to beat are Crystal River and Nature Coast. They split with each other.”
On forecasting the Bulldogs’ chances, “We’re kinda in the same boat we were last year,” said Hinkle. “We’re solid at No. 1-2 singles. The Johnson sisters are a combined 11-1 against district opponents and are 6-0 at No. 1 doubles, but that isn’t enough to win.
“… We’re hoping our 3-5 singles girls can pick it up. I think. it’ll boil down to them and how well we execute.“
On receiving a good draw, “The draw is very important,” stressed Hinkle. “You don’t want the best players to face each other early but that’s what happens sometimes with the draw. Last year, I felt we had a good draw and that helped build some confidence for the girls. We’re hoping for the same this year.”
Lady Eagles enter red-hot
Springstead is seeking its first district championship on the girls’ side since Rick Scholl-guided squad in 2013.
SHS, under Kim Palmer, bested each of its five 3A-5 foes this season but never faced Gainesville – the defending tourney champs.
The Spring Hill crew walks in 12-0 in dual meets led by sophomores Aszti Chadzynski and Summer Smith at No. 2 and No. 5 singles at 10-0.
Junior Haley Palmer arrives 9-1 at No. 4 singles while sophomore Tallia Russell is 8-1 at No. 3 singles.
Freshman newcomer Jolie Miller arrives 4-0 at No. 1 singles.
Miller and Chadzynski at No. 1 doubles are also 4-0.
On the boys’ side, though Brett Teitelman’s crew claimed its third straight county championship, the focus is on redemption in districts.
During the regular season, SHS lost to Vanguard and Lecanto and split matches against Forest.
SHS is guided by two-time singles district champion senior Dylan Palmer.
Palmer enters 13-1 at No. 2 singles.
Sophomore Oswaldo Cherubini, who dropped his only 3A-5 tourney match last season, comes in 11-2 overall at No. 1 singles.
Moreover, at No.1 singles, Cherubini/Palmer are a combined 10-3 overall.
SHS is seeking its first district team crown since 2016.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT – Class 2A, District 7 Boys/Girls Tennis Tournament.
WHO – Seven teams in a single-elimination event featuring: Brooksville-Central, Brooksville-Hernando, Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical, Inverness-Citrus, Crystal River, Weeki Wachee and host Zephyrhills. Defending boys champion is Crystal River. Defending boys runner-up is NCT. Defending girls champion is Nature Coast. Defending girls runner-up is Zephyrhills.
WHERE – Crystal River High School tennis courts, 3195 Crystal River High Dr., Crystal River.. WHEN – Boys: Monday-Tuesday, April 15-16. Girls set for Tuesday-Wednesday, April 16-17. Play to begin each day at 9 a.m. Rain day is Thursday.
AT STAKE – District champion and district runner-up advance to April 23’s Class 2A, Region IV Semifinals. 2A-7’s No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champs automatically advance to the FHSAA State Finals set for April 29 in Seminole County.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT – Class 3A, District 5 Boys/Girls Tennis Tournament.
WHO – Eight teams in a single-elimination event featuring: Gainesville, Groveland-South Lake, Lecanto, Leesburg, Ocala-Forest, Ocala-Lake Weir, Ocala-Vanguard and Spring Hill-Springstead. Defending boys champion is Vanguard. Defending boys runner-up is Forest. Defending girls champion is Gainesville. Defending girls runner-up is Springstead.
WHERE – Jonesville Tennis Center, 14080 NW 32nd Avenue, Gainesville.
WHEN – Monday-Tuesday, April 15-16. Rain make-up day is Wednesday.
AT STAKE – District champion and district runner-up advance to April 23’s Class 3A, Region II Semifinals. 3A-5’s No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champs automatically advance to the FHSAA State Finals set for May 1 at Sanlando Park in Seminole County.