Only a freshman, Matte Browne takes a major step in high school tennis in the Class 2A-District 12 championships.
Singles and doubles play begin on Wednesday at East Naples Community Park.
Naples will be the dominant team, with Josh Dancu the top seed in singles. He and Max Shumake make up the favored doubles duo.
Browne is second seed in singles and will match up with partner Zak Rabani in doubles.
Dancu, only a sophomore, holds the edge on Browne, winning both matches this season.
In the first battle, Browne won the first set, 7-5, then lost the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2. In the second match-up, Dancu won the first set 7-5, but Browne had Dancu down 5-3 in the second set, but couldn’t hold him back, losing 7-5.
Browne wasted no time over Easter break, playing and winning the USTA Super Series for boys 16-and-under in Sarasota last weekend.
Ranked second in the tourney, Browne breezed through the early rounds before meeting top-seed Ricky Symanksi of Clearwater, in the finals. It had been two years since they had met, with Symanski winning.
Symanski didn’t have a chance this time.
The very first point showed Browne wasn’t concerned.
“The point was the coolest,” Matt’s dad Doug said. “Ricky hit his second serve and Matt blew a cross-court forehand winner by Ricky. Matt went four-up before Ricky won a game. It turned out the match wasn’t hard fought, with Matt winning 6-2, 6-2.”
Browne and Symanski paired to win the doubles title. They defeated Dominic Cotrone of Bradenton and Kevin Lyons of Sarasota, 8-2 in games, in a pro set.
“Matt wanted to play in the tournament to make sure he was sharp to face Dancu,” Doug Browne said. “I think Matt needs to convince himself that he deserves to win.”
Dancu, only a sophomore, was Naples Daily News Tennis Player of the Year in 2008.
Naples coach Tony Karmen likes his team’s chances to win districts and go back to state. “We definitely have the potential,” he said.
The Lely girls plays their district matches at Cambier Park in Naples at the same time. The finals in both competitions are expected on Thursday morning.
The Lady Trojans team finished its season strong with a 7-6 with a win over Golden Gate. The Trojans ended the season as district runner-ups behind Naples, who also is favored for the district tourney title.
Coach Kevin Smith said, “(Freshman) Alex Barrett continues to improve at Number One, 1 while play levels have been stepped up by Juniors Jenny Stout and Katrese Daniel. The Trojans will have an uphill battle to finish out the season, with Naples having proven to have a strong competitive team. With weather conditions now becoming more important, athletic conditioning becomes more crucial. We’ll do our best.”