Lely girls tennis doubles team wins trip to state finals

Kevin Johnson/Staff 
 Lely High freshman Tatia Ghviniashvili concentrates on returning a backhand the Class 2A-District 12 No. 1 girls singles final on Wednesday at Three Oaks Tennis Center in Lee County. Ghviniashvili lost the singles final, but later she and teammate Casey Mendel won the No. 1 doubles final and qualified for the state tournament.

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON

Kevin Johnson/Staff Lely High freshman Tatia Ghviniashvili concentrates on returning a backhand the Class 2A-District 12 No. 1 girls singles final on Wednesday at Three Oaks Tennis Center in Lee County. Ghviniashvili lost the singles final, but later she and teammate Casey Mendel won the No. 1 doubles final and qualified for the state tournament.

Submitted by Kathy Mendel
Lely’s Tatia Ghviniashvili, left and Casey Mendel show off their first place doubles ribbons with Estero tennis coach Barry Harris, Class 2A-District 12 tourney host. The Lely girls punched their tickets to the state finals with their win on Wednesday.

Photo by Submitted

Submitted by Kathy Mendel Lely’s Tatia Ghviniashvili, left and Casey Mendel show off their first place doubles ribbons with Estero tennis coach Barry Harris, Class 2A-District 12 tourney host. The Lely girls punched their tickets to the state finals with their win on Wednesday.

Lely girls tennis doubles tennis win trip to state finals

It was looking grim for Lely’s Tatia Ghviniashvili and Casey Mendel. The doubles tennis team was down 4-1 in the final set to earn the right to go on to the Class 2A state doubles championship.

They had lost a pro set, 8-6, earlier this year to Bishop Verot’s No. 1 team of Nicolette Cervone and Gianna Drayer and were on the brink of losing again after splitting the first two sets.

That’s when the Lely team reached back for the final push. Winning four straight games they led, 5-4, Bishop Verot took the lead at 6-5. Lely tied the match at 6-6. In the deciding tie break, Lely took care of business, winning 7-3 in points.

“It came down to us wanting to win. We needed to get it together on the court,” Mendel said. “We gave it all we had.”

“We encouraged each other,” said Ghviniashvili. “Casey played well at the net, something I am learning and I started hitting shots with more power and spin. It is a great feeling to be going to state.”

Ghviniashvili, a freshman and Mendel, a sophomore, started playing together at mid season, with their first match being the pro set loss to Cervone and Drayer.

In the finals, they won the first set, 6-2, then lost 6-2.

Ghviniashvili had a busy day, losing a rugged three-set match to La Belle’s Dusty Catala in No. 1 singles before playing doubles. She lost the first set, 6-3, then dominated for a 6-2 win.

“We had a 10-minute delay and I think I lost momentum for the final set,” she said. Catala won 6-2.

Unusually, they are the only Lely’s girls, or boys, advancing. It was the first time in four years that the girls entire team didn’t advance to regional play. The top singles and doubles team winning the district automatically advance to state play.

For the boys, John Hoenig, playing No. 3 singles, lost in the finals for the boys team’s best finish.

The Lely girls placed third and the boys placed fourth.

Ghviniashvili and Mendel travel to Lemon Bay on April 17 to battle for a state title at Lake Sylvan Park in Sanford.

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