tampabay.com

Same result, just closer

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published April 18, 2007


The best rivalry in area girls high school tennis concluded Tuesday morning, with predictable results.

Wesley Chapel's Yumi Hasegawa beat Central's Jeanette McDonald.

Again.

Afterward, McDonald said she'd love to play her nemesis again, though you get the sense she'd enjoy just as much helping Hasegawa pack and board her plane this summer for Northern Arizona University, where the Wesley Chapel star will play next year.

While she dominated local competition for the three years, the soon to be three-time Hernando County Player of the Year never could figure out Hasegawa.

"She's probably the most frustrating player I've played," said McDonald, one of Central's best ever on the courts.

McDonald finds solace in the fact her Bears won the district team title and will advance to Friday's region play. But they will be hard-pressed to advance beyond that, with McDonald likely wrapping up her excellent career before Hasegawa even begins another run at a state singles title Monday in Altamonte Springs.

Tuesday at River Ridge, Hasegawa cooly dispatched McDonald 6-2, 6-4 in the No. 1 singles finalin Class 3A, District 5. She was a model of consistency, keeping McDonald on the move and ratcheting up her flat, well-placed power shots when she needed them.

It was a match both players looked forward to. Heck, it was the only match to look forward to.

"Every match during the season is 6-0, 6-0, so Jeanette is a treat," said Wesley Chapel coach Jim Caraccholio, as a way of complimenting the fiery and competitive Bear.

Hasegawa has been unbeatable on the North Suncoast, other than giving the local competition a chance to fill her void when she spent her sophomore year training in Japan.

Since her return, she hasn't lost her auta of invincibility.

"I knew it was going to be tougher to get to state when she got back," said McDonald, who went to state the year Hasegawa was in Japan but hasn't since.

But to her credit, McDonald made things difficult before dropping last year's district final 6-3, 6-3, and this year took a set off her antagonist in a regular-season loss.

"It gets harder and closer every time," Hasegawa said, suggesting McDonald was gaining ground.

Hasegawa was too calm and collected and determined this week to allow her any more.

While the animated McDonald talked to herself, slapped her thighs after bad shots and whacked a ball or two into the fence in frustration, Hasegawa was stoic and silent.

As if to calculatingly rob the much more emotional McDonald of even a shred of hope, she took a quick 5-0 lead.

"I didn't know what was going on there," McDonald said. "I calmed down in the second set though."

McDonald led 4-3 in set two, and when Hasegawa tied it at 4, McDonald stayed in control and jumped to a 40-love lead. One more point, and she would be facing set point and a possible reprieve.

That point never came.

Hasegawa, up 5-4, drilled a scorching forehand down the line as McDonald just shook her head. Mentally, the match was over, ending fittingly on a double fault by the exasperated McDonald.

As the match wore on into its second hour, Hasegawa's power became more evident, the corners of the court more friendly and her will unbreakable.

For a while, it looked like she was toying with McDonald.

"Then she put her away," Cracchiolo said. "That's what she does."

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com or 727-869-6261.

FAST FACTS

State tennis

Class 3A

When: April 23-25

Where: Sanlando Park and Lake Brantley High School, Altamonte Springs

Host: Orlando Edgewater.

Class 2A

When: April 24-26

Where: Hillsborough Community College, Tampa

Host: Jesuit

Class A

When: April 24-26

Where: Scott Speicher Tennis Center (Florida State University) and Tom Brown Park, Tallahassee

Host: Tallahassee Maclay.

All admission free.