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Preps

Hernando pulls away from Wesley Chapel

The Leopards sweep four head-to-head matches against defending champion Wesley Chapel to capture the title.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2003


WESLEY CHAPEL -- In finishing second in the past two district tournaments, Hernando coach Teri Sellers found consolation in seeing that the runner-up trophy was really only an inch or so shorter than the one given to the champions.

On Tuesday, she realized how much bigger it really is.

Hernando went 5-1 in the finals Tuesday, sweeping four showdowns with host Wesley Chapel to run away with the Class 2A, District 9 championship by 18-13.

"To have this happen for this team, I'm ecstatic," said Sellers, whose team hosts District 10 champion Sebring in a region showdown Friday. "We knew we needed a big day, and this is a great feeling. I'm so excited for the girls."

Hernando's only finals loss came at No. 1 singles, where Hudson's Meighan O'Connor, undefeated as a sophomore, beat the Leopards' Katie Werner in straight sets. Werner exacted revenge hours later, combining with fellow senior Terra Sickler to hand O'Connor and Rebecca Arico their first loss of the season, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles. That win advanced Werner and Sickler to next week's state tournament in Tampa, and O'Connor will compete there as well.

The Leopards' win Tuesday wasn't as easy as the score would indicate. Hernando entered the finals with a 13-12 lead against Wesley Chapel, the defending district champion. Hernando swept three singles matches with the Wildcats, getting wins from junior Allison Solomon, freshman Chelsea Clark and sophomore Jill Matherly at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 singles.

Clark trailed 5-1 in her first set before rallying to win in a tiebreaker, and she paired with Solomon to win at No. 2 doubles. Wesley Chapel's lone finals win came at No. 2 singles, where Alexis Mecca rallied from one set down to beat Hudson's Arico and finish the season unbeaten in singles.

3A-7: Central simply perfect

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Central swept all seven events to win its fourth consecutive title.

"We've never won by this margin before," Central coach Joe Nicolai said. "We had a goal of coming in here to win this with 21 points and we worked hard for it. Our philosophy is that winning isn't everything, but losing is not an option."

Central (13-2) had 21 points, easily topping the eight scored by runner-up Springstead. Land O'Lakes and Ridgewood tied for third with six. The Bears host the District 8 winner Friday.

No. 1 Shelane Etchison (10-7), No. 2 Kacy Howard (14-1), No. 3 Stephanie Kohls (15-1), No. 4 Irene Cho (16-1) and No. 5 Stephanie D'Anna won in singles. All were top seeds.

In doubles, top-seeded Etchison and Kohls (11-2) took the No. 1 title and second-seeded Howard and Cho (10-1) won at No. 2.

The last time a team scored 21 points in a district meet involving teams from Pasco or Hernando counties was 2001 by Countryside. The 3A-9 field that season at East Lake also included Gulf, Ridgewood, Land O'Lakes and East Lake.

-- STEVE LEE

2A-6: Lecanto amplifies sterling regular season

LECANTO -- Four singles crowns, two doubles titles and another district championship.

For Lecanto, it was a typical day.

With a dominating performance (again), the Panthers claimed their seventh consecutive district title with 18 points, seven better than Crystal River. Lecanto entered 16-0 and has won 83 of its past 84 regular-season matches, so anything short of a convincing win would have been a surprise.

"They played well," coach Joan Roberts said. "Everybody did what they were supposed to do."

No. 1 Nisha Shah, No. 2 Shreya Rao, No. 3 Ashley Campbell and No. 4 Sireesha Bellam convincingly won titles. The doubles teams of Shah-Rao and Campbell-Bellam also won.

Crystal River's Jillian DeRevere, who won at No. 5, was the only non-Lecanto champion.

"Winning never gets old to me," Campbell said. "It was probably our best two days of the season."

Shah, unbeaten in singles, defeated Citrus' Andrea Hanson 6-0, 6-0. Rao and Campbell each lost two games and Bellam dropped three.

"I thought we all played really well," Rao said.

-- KEITH NIEBUHR

A-8: The rest no match for powerful Saddlebrook

TAMPA -- Saddlebrook proved to be too much for the rest of the district, sweeping every singles and doubles final to earn a spot in next week's state tournament.

The last doubles match was the longest of the day as Saddlebrook's Kourtney Stark and Jamie DeGraffenreid defeated Academy of the Holy Names' Deirdre Ziegenfuss and Allison Symulevich 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

"Mentally, we were not there in the first set," Stark said. "It was my third match of the day, I was tired, but once we got it together, we played well."

At No. 1 singles, Saddlebrook freshman Christina Liles defeated Tampa Prep freshman Andrea Meythaler 6-4, 6-1. Liles also paired with Lorinda Boothman in No. 1 doubles to defeat Meythaler and Mary Ingram in a quick 6-0, 6-0 victory.

"I kind of knew what to expect (with Meythaler) because we've played before," Liles said. "She's pretty good. Hopefully I can play well at state. This is the first year all of us are from Florida."

Liles was on last season's Saddlebrook team, which was third in Class A.

Saddlebrook did not drop a match and had 14 points. Holy Names and Tampa Prep tied with three points.

-- EMILY NIPPS

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