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Preps

Gators defend undefeated season

Land O'Lakes, 17-0 during the regular season, wins three singles and two doubles titles for the 3A-7 championship.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2003


NEW PORT RICHEY -- For Land O'Lakes coach Karen Turman, there was no accepting anything less than the district title on the heels of a 17-0 season.

Even more so after entering last season's tournament as the favorite and finishing third.

"Last year, we came in as a favorite, too. I think that was our motivation," Turman said after the Gators won three singles and two doubles matches Tuesday to win the title with 17 points.

Mitchell and Springstead tied for second with eight points. Land O'Lakes hosts District 8 winner Lakeland George Jenkins on Friday.

Land O'Lakes had players in seven finals. No. 2 Kyle Staiger (15-0), No. 3 Mike Seidl (19-0) and No. 5 Justin Hill (15-2) won singles titles. The No. 1 doubles team of Vu-Anh Thai and Staiger (12-0) and No. 2 team Seidl and Robert Lydic (8-0) also won.

Mitchell's Gregg Strange defeated Thai 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to win consecutive No. 1 singles titles and advance to the state tournament.

Strange and Thai split two regular-season matches with Thai backing out of the second meeting due to back pain.

"The second time around you'd better be on your toes against Gregg," Mitchell coach Jim Smith said.

Springstead's Philipp Holtkamp won at No. 4 singles.

2A-9: Leopards take team title but individual Cobras shine

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Hernando won Tuesday's district championship at Zephyr Park. Now a trip to state awaits in Friday's region meet. But Hudson's Juan Castaneda and Davis Hanley won't have to wait. Castaneda won the district singles title and together the pair won the doubles title to advance to Monday's Class 2A meet.

For Castaneda, the junior returns to state for the first time since his freshman year. "I'm real excited," he said. "But it's going to be hard, though."

Second seed Castaneda beat fifth-seeded Eric Frechette of Hernando 6-2, 6-3 to win the title. But Frechette helped make Castaneda's path easier, upsetting top seed Sonney Shell of Wesley Chapel 6-0, 6-0 in Monday's semifinals. Shell and Castaneda split this season. "I know Sonney didn't have his best day," Leopards coach Brett Teitelman. "But Eric did have a great match. That was a big win."

Hernando players won three singles titles, one doubles title and finished as the runners-up in two singles finals.

Drew Taylor won No. 2 singles 6-2, 6-0 over Hanley, Brent Lowman won No. 3 singles 6-4, 6-4 over Wesley Chapel's Tomas Houba and Daniel Widboom beat Zephyrhills' J.B. Bird in No. 4 singles 6-1, 6-1.

Lowman and Taylor won No. 2 doubles 6-2, 6-2 over Hudson. In singles, Frechette and No. 5 Michael Ehlenbeck were runners-up.

"The key today was just consistency," Teitelman said. "Just trying to play one more ball than our opponent and not dwell on our mistakes."

Hernando won with 17 points, beating Hudson by six. The Cobras edged third-place Zephyrhills by a point. Hernando hosts District 10 champion Lake Wales in Friday's region meet with a state berth on the line.

-- JAMAL THALJI

2A-6: Lecanto takes consistent approach

LECANTO -- After Lecanto claimed the championship Tuesday, its first since 1997, senior Adam Talley offered the following assessment as to why this Panthers squad did what so many others in recent years failed to do:

"We're more consistent," he said.

Apparently so.

Lecanto took four singles and one doubles title to finish with 19 points, three better than second-place Crystal River. No. 2 Cyprian Rodriguez, No. 3 Ravi Parikh, No. 4 Talley and No. 5 Andy Montag were champions. Talley and Montag also won at No. 2 doubles.

"The kids did a great job today," Panthers coach Bill Murray said. "They've done everything I've asked them to do all year."

Parikh and Montag remained unbeaten in singles.

"It feels great," said Talley, who has one loss this season. "I was afraid we weren't going to do it, but we pulled it out."

Crystal River sophomore Chris Lavoie won a tough match against Lecanto's Avash Rao 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to earn consecutive titles at No. 1. He later teamed with Brian Wilkerson to defeat Rao and Parikh in straight sets for the No. 1 doubles title.

"I'm very excited," Lavoie said. "It's a great accomplishment."

-- KEITH NIEBUHR

A-8: Saddlebrook sweeps all but No. 1 singles

TAMPA -- There was no pressure on Tampa Prep's George Navas to beat Saddlebrook No. 1 Mark Spicijaric, a junior from New Jersey who just returned from winning the prestigious Easter Bowl juniors tournament.

If only every match was this way for Navas. The freshman took control of the top singles final early and defeated Spicijaric 6-1, 6-4.

"He was really high emotionally and really hyper (before the match)," Navas said. "At first, I don't think he was mentally prepared. If he had broken my serve once, the match could have been turned around."

"This match does a lot for my confidence."

Navas was the only player not from Saddlebrook to advance beyond the district, and he will play in his first state tournament next week in Tallahassee. Saddlebrook swept the rest of Tuesday's singles and doubles finals.

Saddlebrook senior and No. 4 Leonard Gullen (ranked No. 3 in South Africa), the only returner from last season, thinks the Spartans have a shot at another title. He paired with Spicijaric to defeat Navas and Cam Babbitt 6-1, 7-6 (11-9).

"That was probably the best doubles match we've played the whole season," Gullen said.

Saddlebrook finished with 13 points and runner-up Tampa Prep scored eight. Berkeley Prep and Cambridge did not score.

-- EMILY NIPPS

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