By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -- If Countryside were going to overtake Fort Lauderdale Aquinas on the final day of the Class 3A state tournament at Sanlando Park, it needed to win its matches and get a few breaks.
The Cougars took care of things on the court, storming to individual championships at Nos. 1-3 singles. They also got a break when the Raiders earned one point in singles matches.
With doubles left, the Cougars needed to win one of two matches. The No. 2 team of Evangelina Soriano and Anatasiya Sokolova took care of business, beating Casey Beck and Mallori Browne of Naples 6-1, 6-1 in the final to put Countryside over the top.
The Cougars are the Class 3A state champion by the narrowest of margins, 14-13 over St. Thomas Aquinas.
"It's a great feeling," junior Jennifer Dent said. "We all needed to play well and we did."
Dent, Soriano and Sokolova played a big part in earning the school's first girls tennis state championship. Sokolova, a freshman, and Soriano, a sophomore, combined to earn nine of the team's 14 points.
Dent picked up three points by winning the No. 1 singles championship over Audra Cohen of St. Thomas Aquinas, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Dent will play Choctawhatchee's Jolyn Taylor this morning for the overall singles championship.
"I played well in the first and third set but she changed things up in the second set and I didn't adjust," Dent said of her singles match. "I decided to go back to returning shots and moving to the net when I needed to."
Countryside sent a message at the tournament. The Cougars' top three players lost only one set during their matches. None of the three has lost a match this season.
Senior Jennifer Watts also played a big role as Dent's No. 1 doubles partner. Dent and Watts went to the No. 1 doubles final before losing to Cohen and Srephine Keene of St. Thomas Aquinas. Sophomore Heather Frank is the Cougars No. 5 player, but she lost her opening round match on Wednesday.
"We've got a pretty good team coming back, huh," Cougars coach John Williams said. "I feel great for these girls. They've worked hard all year."
East Lake's boys team had a solid showing as well. The Eagles finished second with 10 points, seven behind repeat champion Naples Barron Collier. No. 1 player Ryan Buchanan won the singles championship 6-2, 6-2 against Barron Collier's Seth Fogelman.
Buchanan will play Jesse Witten of Lely this morning for the overall championship.
"I was surprised by it a little bit," Buchanan said of his singles championship. "I know he was a higher ranked player than I was. I wanted to make him run a little bit because he played a lot (Wednesday)."
East Lake's Adel Naser won the No. 2 singles title 6-2, 6-1 against Barron Collier's David Schmuck. Buchanan and Naser reached the No. 1 doubles final before losing to Fogelman and Brett Twente of Barron Collier.
In the individual tournament, Seminole's doubles team of Fred Johnson and Scott Forsman lost 6-1, 6-1 to Okeechobee.
TAMPA -- Canterbury's Michelle Murman and Natalie Tirapelle lost in the quarterfinals while teammates Jon Brett and Marc Sawyer lost in the semifinals.