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Coming into the high school tennis season, Lely junior Diego Britt-Alvarez coveted the district singles title that had barely eluded his grasp each of the last two seasons.

The Trojans’ No. 1 player accomplished that goal easily, and didn’t stop there.

The unseeded Marco Island resident advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals last Monday in his first experience there, impressing on his first day with two wins – including a three-set thriller over No. 3 seed Colin Tavares of Titusville in the quarterfinals.

His run ended the next day with a 6-3, 6-1 loss to No. 2 seed James Bratt of Ridgeview.

“I actually thought the kid I beat the day before (Tavares) was better than that kid,” Britt-Alvarez said. “I kind of let some outside distractions get to me, and I didn’t play as well as I did on the first day.”

Those distractions included a busted string on his racket that occurred midway through the first set, and the challenge of playing in front of a much bigger crowd than usual.

“Both semifinals were going on at the same time, and there were a lot of people watching,” he said. “I definitely had an off day, but it’s something I can learn from when I get back next year.”

Britt-Alvarez exudes confidence, saying he feels he has what it takes to win it all in 2020.

“I thought I played well this year, especially since it was the first time being there,” he said. “New place, new environment, I thought I handled it well, especially the first day. The big thing I learned is you have to stay in the moment, always stay focused and not let those little outside disturbances get to you.”

Lely veteran tennis coach Kevin Smith said Britt-Alvarez possesses the overall game to win big tournaments like state. He’s got a big serve, one he can dial up to 120 miles per hour, and has the athleticism to run shots down when he’s in trouble.

“He’s an outstanding tennis player and he’s definitely much more capable than what he showed in that semifinal match,” Smith said. “He didn’t get outplayed, he just made more mistakes than he did the first day. Unforced errors, double faults, those are things that wear you down mentally. But he saw he belonged there and can play with anyone in the state.”

Britt-Alvarez certainly showed that throughout the year, going 16-2. His only losses were a three-set defeat to Class 3A state runner-up Michael Moll of Naples, and the semifinal setback against Bratt.

With his junior season now in the rear-view mirror, he can get more serious about his college recruitment. Britt-Alvarez says there are at least six schools with heavy interest, most at the Division II level. He says he’d like to major in political science and perhaps one day pursue a career in law.

“I’m not sure exactly where I’m going yet,” Britt-Alvarez said. “Probably the first school that offers me a full ride.”

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