Springstead tunes up for
rugged 3A-5 Tourney by
polishing off 14-3 NCT
By TONY CASTRO
BROOKSVILLE- Under ideal chamber of commerce conditions – 75 degrees and a slight westerly breeze – F.W. Springstead tuned up for next week’s rugged Class 3A, District 5 Tournament at the Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville with a milestone.
On Wednesday, the Eagles (10-4) completed a four-match sweep (5-0 if you count private school Hernando Christian Academy) of its county brethren by sweeping archrival Nature Coast Technical (6-1 county, 14-3 overall) in Brooksville inside 1:45 hours, 7-0.
The win helped ease the sting from Tuesday’s 6-1 pounding at the hands of Class 4A state finalist Wesley Chapel-Wiregrass Ranch on the Bulls’ courts, 6-1.
The match served as the Spring Hill’s crew final regular season tune-up prior to April 15-16’s Class 3A, District 5 Tournament in Alachua County.
The field at the Jonesville Tennis Center includes always-tough Lecanto plus Ocala-Forest and Ocala-Vanguard.
On Tuesday, only senior Alvin Nguyen (pronounced win) at No. 5 singles was successful knocking off Yassin Khalida, 6-3, 6-3.
Less than 24 hours later, the Eagles dissected the Sharks on their own courts.
Sophomore Oswaldo Cherubini (11-2 overall) started things off on the right foot at No. 1 singles besting NCT senior Roger Sniffen (12-4), 6-0, 6-4.
At No. 2, senior Dylan Palmer, who suffered his first loss of the season Tuesday after 12 straight victories, returned to the winner’s circle topping Alec Priede (9-4), 6-1, 3-1 before he retired.
SHS freshman John Ruskowski (9-5) upset Cayden Muir(10-3) at No. 3 singles, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.=
Senior David Parker (9-50 disposed of NCT frosh Quintin Hotop (12-5) at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-2.
Nguyen (9-4) toppled Owen King at No. 5 (4-3), 6-0, 6-3.
In doubles action, Cherubini/Palmer at No. 1 climbed to 10-3 overall by bopping Sniffen/Hotop (0-1), 8-4.
At No. 2, Ruskowski/Parker (6-5) completed the sweep by blanking Muir/King (1-1), 8-0.
Cherubini, who topped Sniffen, 6-3, 6-0 last spring, said he learned his lessons against the Bulls.
“That match really helped me with my top spin,” addressed Cherubini, 16. “That Wiregrass kid was the best player I’ve faced.”
On whether Cherubini is ready for the rigors of district play, “I’m where I want to be. It just feels awesome to win the county again.“
“Tuesday’s loss helped me mentally,” explained Palmer, 18. “Losing always helps you play smarter. I learned a lot yesterday.”
On Wednesday’s mindset against Priede that Palmer survived in three sets last spring, 6-2, 4-6, 11-6. “I wanted to go out and find his weaknesses,” noted Palmer. “In the past, we’ve usually split games. We’ve had great matches.”
On the difference in play, “I felt a little more confident after Tuesday,” replied Palmer, a two-time district champion. “The Wiregrass opponent was definitely the best kid I’ve faced.”
Last year against NCT, Parker was swept by Muir. This time, he returned the favor against Hotop.
“Losing yesterday I think helped a lot,” noted Parker, 18. “It was pretty windy yesterday, so It helped me prepare for today.”
Parker added, “My Vanguard opponent was the best guy I’ve seen. The biggest difference from yesterday was my backhand was much better.”
On the eve of districts, “I feel good,” replied Parker. “I’m ready for districts.“
“Playing teams like Wiregrass really helped,” offered Ruskowski, 15. “That match helped me mentally prepare for today. The biggest lessons were to keep my serves in and hit deep ground strokes.”
On his mindset, “I wanted to go into districts with a win,” said Ruskowski. “It was a solid match. He hit good cross court shots and good balls down the line.”
“Wiregrass’s depth wasn’t the greatest,” shared Nguyen, 16. “But I hit against a good team.”
On the matches’ difference, “I forced him into errors and just kept plugging with my second serve. I think I’m prepared for what’s coming at districts.”
After capturing No. 1 doubles, “Nature Coast was solid,” described Cherubini. “They played their No. 4 at No. 1 doubles. I thought going in, we had the upper hand.”
“The chemistry is really good between us,” noted Palmer. “We can both play at the net or go baseline.”
“I thought we came in a little flat footed,” admitted NCT’s 14th-year mentor Tom Brown. “But they (Springstead) did too.”
On what veteran mentor took away from the Sharks’ first 7-0 loss to SHS in two years, “I’m a bit concerned with the health of our team. I wish we had a little more time for R&R.
On Thursday’s goal against Zephyrhills, “No more injuries,” emphasized Coach Brown. “We’ve been dealing with some cramping issues. It‘s been a little more chronic than its ever been.”
Sprinstead’s second-year mentor Brett Teitelman savored the bounce back effort.
“The reason we play state final teams like Wiregrass Ranch is to prepare for matches like this,” said Teitelman.
“We wanted to win the county again this year. It’s one of our goals. It’s not our top goal. A win like this hopefully gives us a little energy prior to going to Gainesville.”
As far as surprises, “It was good to see John (Ruskowski) win that tiebreaker before winning his match. He stayed strong in that second set. It was good to see.“
Springstead is expected to squeeze in some practice on clay courts prior to heading to the Jonesville Tennis Center on Monday.
NCT is hosting three-time defending individual No. 1 singles champion Jonathan Judy-Hansen and rest of the Bulldogs on Thursday in Brooksville beginning at 3 p.m.
No. 1 – Oswaldo Cherubini (SPG) def. Roger Sniffen, 6-0, 6-4.
No. 2 – Dylan Palmer (SPG) def. Alec Priede, 6-1, 3-1, retire.
No. 3 – John Murkowski (SPG) def. Cayden Muir, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.
No. 4 – David Parker (SPG) def. Quintin Hotop, 6-0, 6-2.
No. 5 – Alvin Nguyen (SPG) def. Owen King, 6-0, 6-3.
Doubles: (pro set)
No. 1 – Cherubini/Palmer (SG) def. Sniffen/Hotop, 8-4.
No. 2 – Ruskowski/Parker (SPG) def. Muir/King, 8-0.
Records – Springstead (4-0 county, 10-4 overall), Nature Coast Technical (6-1 county, 14-3 overall)..