TAMPA - One year ago, Tampa Catholic's Miranda Gutierrez was discouraged when she learned of her tough first-round opponent at the Class 2A state tournament and was disappointed when she lost in that round. She later hinted she might not return to high school tennis.
On Thursday, all was forgotten when Gutierrez won the overall singles championship 6-1, 6-2 against Orlando Bishop Moore's Natalie Arcario.
"I feel awesome," Gutierrez said. "This is the best thing that's happened to me in a long time."
Gutierrez, who will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall, breezed through her four state opponents, including her future college roommate, Miami Gulliver Prep's Chrystan Lucas. That victory (7-5, 6-0) in Tuesday's semifinals sent Gutierrez's confidence soaring as she never doubted her goal of winning a team singles title and an overall title against Arcario, the individual singles champion.
In Wednesday's team final, Gutierrez defeated Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons No. 1 Joelle Schwenk, who beat Gutierrez in the first round last year. "Every match, I was more and more confident," she said. "Last year, I was a little intimidated by (Schwenk), but this time I felt so confident. I don't know how else to put it."
Arcario, a junior, said she knew she was facing a tough match against Gutierrez, who defeated her in January.
"I just went out there and tried my best," Arcario said. "She was pretty much in control from the beginning."
In the boys overall final, Cardinal Gibbons senior Euisik Jung frustrated and defeated Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest's Josh Brauser 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). Brauser had several good-natured outbursts during the match, and when Jung returned a tough shot for a point, Brauser screamed, "I hate you!"
"It's because I nailed a great shot and he hit it right back," said Brauser, who played Jung several times before Thursday. "He makes me look stupid."4A: County players lose in tiebreakers
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS - The format change was meant to speed things up.
But Wharton doubles pair Frankie Castillo and Konstantin Lazarov and Gaither's Brianna Williams could have used extra time to get back in the match and win.
After more than a day's worth of play was lost to rain, leaving half a day to finish, officials changed the format of the Class 4A state finals. Instead of playing the best of three sets, matches would consist of two sets and a 10-point tie breaker if necessary.
Castillo and Lazarov won their first match 6-3, 6-3 over Miami Killian's Bradley Mixon and Gustavo Sanbenetti, then lost an individual doubles semifinal against Olympic Heights' David Pernstein and Jonathan Dumas, 6-3, 3-6, (10-3).
In her individual singles semifinal, Williams had trouble holding serve against hard-hitting Jessica Barron of Miami Palmetto, losing the first set 6-4. She came back in the second, hitting more winners and frustrating Barron to take the set 6-2. But in the tiebreaker, Williams lost too much too early. She rallied from 9-3 down to get within 9-7, but gave Barron too many opportunities to win, falling 10-7.
Williams and doubles partner sophomore Annica Johansson lost to Barron and Pia Dozo-Moreno 6-1, 6-4.
- LAURA LEE