Creekside’s girls tennis team has been state runner-up in two of the past three years.
This year the Knights are ready to take the next step.
“We’re deeper than we were last year,” said Creekside coach Justin Vogel. “We were good last year (when the Knights finished second to Class 3A champ West Boca Raton). The whole team this year is better at every line.”
The Knights defeated county rival Nease 4-0 Thursday in the Region 2-3A final at the Creekside High tennis courts to advance to next week’s state tournament at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.
They will be joined by the Bartram Trail boys, who won 5-0 over Creekside in the boys’ Region 2-3A final at the Bartram courts.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win the state title,” Bartram coach Scott Miller said.
Meanwhile, the Ponte Vedra girls won 4-1 at Bolles to advance to the Class 2A state championships at Red Bug Lake Park and Sylvan Lake Park, nearby Sanlando.
The Sharks’ Olivia Talbert qualified for state for the second straight year. This time, her teammates will join her.
Bartram’s boys missed out on a trip to state last year, losing in the regional final 4-3 to Daytona Beach Seabreeeze.
“Some of these guys have been waiting a full calendar year to get another chance,” Miller said.
None of the Bartram players was more excited than Chad Thomas, the team’s only senior.
“It’s my last year and we’re going to end it with a bang,” said Thomas, the team’s captain, who has taken on the role of nickname provider, giving out nicknames to team members.
“It’s become motivational,” he said.
Both the Creekside girls and the Bartram boys cruised to victory Thursday, as they have all season. Bartram improved to 18-0 on the year, while Creekside has not lost a dual match in the four years since seniors Camille Lastrapes and Sandy Allen joined the team.
In the boys regional final, Bartram won all five singles matches to clinch the victory without having to play doubles.
The Bears won four of those matches in straight sets. With the team victory already in hand, Bartram freshman Michael Guyot and Creekside sophomore Logan Michalski continued to play. After losing the first set 3-6, Guyot won 6-0 and 10-5 in the tiebreak.
“It’s always important to finish,” said Guyot, who improved to 15-2 on the season.
In the other boys matches, Brandon Pham improved to 14-0 with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Creekside freshman Rohan Bongu at No. 1. Brian Pham (18-0) defeated freshman Miru Warsusawithana 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2. Daniel Welch (16-1) beat Neel Patel 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 and Thomas (18-0) beat Francisco Orochena 6-3, 6-1 at No. 5.
“My boys were overachievers to get to this point,” Vogel said. “We have three freshmen and two sophomores, so in the next couple of years they won’t be in the shadow of the girls anymore.”
But for the time being, the Creekside girls continue to cast a long shadow. With the doubles played first at Creekside, Lastrapes and Allen improved to 16-0 at No. 1 doubles with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Nease’s Jemma Tassopoulos and Jackie Calese. Creekside’s Chetana Ramesh and Aishwarya Pawar defeated Abby Damon and Caroline Jones, 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2.
In the two singles matches that were completed to clinch the Knights’ win, Lastrapes defeated Tassopoulos 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 and Ramesh beat Mackenzie Valencic 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4.
At Bolles, Ponte Vedra’s Talbert trounced Elise Ballentyme 6-1, 6-4 in No. 1 singles to improve to 16-0 on the season. Claire Olson also won handily, beating Ashton Hanigan 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2. Alyssa Hensley beat Anny Thanner 6-4, 6-4 at No. 3, and Kendall McCall beat Isabella Diaz-Mira in a marathon match to punch Ponte Vedra’s ticket to state. McCall won 6-1, 6-7 (4), 14-12 in No. 5 singles to clinch the match.
Creekside’s girls and Bartram’s boys will play state quarterfinal matches Monday at Sanlando with semifinals and championships scheduled for Tuesday.
The Ponte Vedra girls will play quarterfinals Wednesday with semifinals and finals scheduled for Thursday.