• Oak Hall Boys, Eastside Boys, P.K. Yonge Girls Heading to State


    From the Gainesville Sun

    By Larry Savage

    The last time Oak Hall boys tennis reached the state tournament, Logan Blaser was 9 years old and had only played tennis about a year. Now, the junior No. 2, along with standout eighth-grade twins Grey and Harry Cacciatore, Brandon Cooke and Nash Dean will be making the trip next week, eight years since the last time John Dickinson and Tom Simpson’s crew reached the ultimate goal in 2006.

    On its home court on Thursday, Oak Hall defeated Jacksonville Episcopal 5-2, sweeping the top three singles and both doubles for the historic win. The Eagles join Eastside’s boys and P.K. Yonge’s girls, both of whom will be making their third straight trip to state next week in Seminole County.

    “It is really a special moment,” said Dickinson, in his 25th season as coach. “I am really delighted to take this bunch to state and go myself. It is not routine. I thought we played a great team with a lot of tradition. A team that is comfortable being here, that is loaded with seniors. Here my little rat-pack group of kids came out and played their hearts out.”

    Harry Cacciatore got things started for Oak Hall, beating Davis Walker of Episcopal at No. 3 singles, 6-1, 6-3. His brother Grey soon followed, running Sean Halloran ragged in his 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 1, and Blaser finished off with Sid Yarlagadda soon after at No. 3 singles, 6-2, 6-1.

    “Getting those victories in the top three singles took a little wind out of Episcopal’s sails,” Dickinson said. “We have played them many times at regionals but don’t have a lot to show for it. I think they (his players) felt they were in a good spot.”

    After Cooke and Dean fell in No. 4 and No. 5 singles, it came down to doubles, where Oak Hall only needed to win one of the two matches. They ended up winning both.

    But it was Harry Cacciatore and Cooke that clinched it at No. 2 doubles, beating Ross Clements and Walter Wood, 6-1, 6-3. Grey Cacciatore and Blaser rallied after losing the first set to top Walker and Charlie Conway, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

    “It was a little unexpected,” Dickinson said of No. 2 doubles team. “That wasn’t our strongest team. Brandon Cooke played his best, he did his part. He is the least polished player we have, but he hangs in there. He gives it his best.”

    “Going into the match, we didn’t expect to win that easy,” said Harry Cacciatore. “After the first set, we were sure we would take them down.”

    “It is a great feeling going to state, knowing we worked the entire year to do it,” Cooke said.

    Oak Hall will be one of eight teams competing in the 1A boys state tournament, which opens on Wednesday at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry.

    “I’m just so excited to go to state,” Blaser said. “It has been a long time since we have gone. Winning those top three singles set the tone for the rest of the match.”

    Grey Cacciatore, who was heading to state as district champion at No. 1, is happier to be going with his team.

    “It feels great to go to state with my whole team,” he said. “I get to miss some days at school. It is great to play together the game we love.”

    Sophomore Nash Dean, Oak Hall’s No. 5 singles player, is excited about traveling to the big event.

    “It is pretty awesome,” he said. “I was hoping we could go. This feeling is amazing.”

    REGION 3-2A BOYS: Eastside won four of five singles and both doubles to down Orlando Bishop Moore convincingly, 6-1, at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, earning the Rams their third straight trip to state.

    Picking up singles wins were Benjamin Brandt (No. 2), Maxwell Curtis (No. 3), Hyunsoo Joo (No. 4) and Samuel Lockey (No. 5). Camille Kima lost the only three-set match of the day in falling to Bishop Moore’s Jack Hoy at No. 1.

    Curtis and Joo, along with Brandt and Derek Li, respectively, won both the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles for the Rams, who open state tournament competition Monday at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry.

    REGION 2-1A GIRLS: P.K. Yonge earned its third straight trip to state with a 4-2 win over Jacksonville Episcopal at Jonesville Tennis Center. The Blue Wave picked up three singles victories and one doubles to clinch it. The biggest singles win was by freshman Marcela Ifju at No. 2, rallying after dropping her second set to Danielle Corbin 2-6 and turning it around, winning the decisive third set 6-2.

    “I was really proud of Marcela today,” said Blue Wave coach Robert Taylor. “Winning that first set, then losing the second and finding a way to win that third. I was also happy for her sister, Daniela, winning her first singles match in a regional final. Every year it seems one of the young ones steps up, last year it was Matty (Sagas) and this year it was Marcela. She stepped up in that third set. She has to keep that mental focus and understand that every point is just one point, it doesn’t determine how the match will turn out.”

    Senior Kiah Turner cruised at No. 1, beating Taryn Petersen, 6-0, 6-0. Daniela Ifju, a seventh-grader, defeated Bianca Cornthwaite of Episcopal at No. 4, 6-3, 6-3. The No. 1 doubles team of Turner and Madison Sagas easily won their match in straight sets.

    The Blue Wave open the 1A state tournament on Wednesday at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry.

    REGION 1-4A GIRLS: Buchholz fell at Port Orange Spruce Creek, 4-1, as the Hawks won three singles and No. 1 doubles to clinch their ninth trip to state in the last 10 years. Bobcats sophomore No. 1 Kendal Wilby, who fell to Spruce Creek senior Meghan Zimmer, advances to state as an individual by winning No. 1 singles at districts.

    REGION 3-2A GIRLS: Eastside’s sophomore No. 1 Emily Louie-Meadors won her match, but the Rams lost the remaining four singles matches to fall at Orlando Lake Highland Prep, 4-1, in the regional finals, denying them a second straight trip to state. Louie-Meadors will go to state as an individual by winning No. 1 singles at districts.

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