When the FHSAA tennis regional playoffs begin today, the usual suspects from the local courts will be on display.
The Barron Collier boys are going for their fourth straight state championship and seventh in nine seasons. The Cougars girls team is in the state tournament for at least the 13th year in a row.
At Naples, the Golden Eagles boys are in regionals for the seventh consecutive year while the girls are in the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons.
However, among the local tennis royalty in this week’s playoffs are two newcomers to the postseason. The Seacrest boys team and the Golden Gate girls each will make school history today by playing in the regional semifinals for the first time.
“We set strong goals at the beginning of the season, but the guys have exceed them,” Stingrays coach Christin Palumbo said. “They’re very excited and happy for this experience.”
The Seacrest and Golden Gate teams earned spots in regionals behind the cohesive bond of its veterans. Neither has a dominant player, but both got strong performances from top to bottom at last week’s district tournaments.
The Titans made it to the finals in only two singles draws in the Class 2A-District 12. Freshman Taylor Smith’s title at No. 2 was Golden Gate’s only one, yet the Titans performed well enough in the early rounds to earn second place.
Likewise, Seacrest only had one individual title. Eighth-grader Cameron Thorne won at No. 4 singles but the Stingrays were able to win the 1A-10 district.
“They’re very proud of themselves and excited to be recognized at school,” Titans girls coach Beth Elledias said. “Now we get to put a banner up in the gym, so they’re very excited about that.”
Unlike years past, Golden Gate has experienced players this season. Before girls would join the team to learn to play tennis. This year, Elledias has tennis players.
Junior Thi Doan and Scott, Nos. 1 and 2 singles respectively, both play in junior tournaments. The Titans other three singles players also were on the team last season. They are 6-6 in dual matches going into today’s regional semifinal at Lemon Bay.
Seacrest is led by senior David Prue, who’s been on the team for five seasons. Although Thorne, the Stingrays’ only district champ, is young, he’s in his third year on the team. Seacrest went 10-2 in the regular season and hosts St. Petersburg-Shorecrest Prep today.
The Seacrest boys and Golden Gate girls each have just one seniors. Regardless of what happens in regionals, both programs hope they have laid the groundwork for continued success in the future.
“We’re going to continue with our team approach,” Palumbo said. “We’re going in knowing we’re the underdog, but we’re going to work for every point. We’re going to play the ball, not the opponent.”