HCAC crown finds two wearers

Published April 13, 2007

SPRING HILL - Central's Joe Nicolai and Hernando's Pete Lahey stood near the tennis courts at Delta Woods Park. The coaches had just congratulated each other on sharing the Hernando County Athletic Conference championship, when Nicolai pointed to Lahey.

"Okay, you got your racket?" Nicolai jokingly asked Lahey.

After the final doubles match ended Thursday, both of the girls teams were tied for the title. The joke was the coaches should play each other to determine the winner.

Lahey just laughed. With his back, that wasn't an option.

It looked like Central might defend its title for the third straight year when Jeanette McDonald and Alexa Burns rallied to take a lead in the second set. Hernando's Simone Berger and Alison Steiner were ahead coming into Thursday. Play was suspended Wednesday because of rain.

But the unforced errors that hurt Hernando early in the second set sprung up on Central; Hernando beat Central 6-4, 7-5.

"You can't win championships by making unforced errors and double faults," Nicolai said.

With their teammates, or sisters as they call them, cheering from the sidelines, Berger and Steiner said they didn't feel any pressure. That's exactly what Lahey was hoping.

"I told the girls that the pressure is all on (Central)," Lahey said. " They just had to come out, play hard and have a good time."