Local Sports

County rivals host district tennis

SEBRING - It's a Highlands County grand slam.

Lake Placid, Sebring, and Avon Park will be in action on the tennis courts today, as Avon Park and Sebring host the boys and girls Class 2A-District 11 district tournaments today.

Matches start at 9 a.m. and play will spill over into Tuesday. The tournament champion and runner-up advance to regionals, while the singles and doubles champion advance straight to state. Other teams in 2A-11 are Lemon Bay, Cape Coral, DeSoto, Hardee, Mariner, and Oasis. Mariner and Oasis are both located in Cape Coral.

For longtime rivals Sebring and Avon Park, the outlook for the girls' teams couldn't be different.

The Blue Streaks are gunning for a trip to the regional round, with hopes of sending a singles champion or doubles tandem onto state.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils see the district tournament as a way to gain valuable experience.

"I feel like each player is at the top of their game and ready to step up to any competition that is thrown their way," Streaks coach Janie Hollinger said.

Sebring (11-2) enters the tournament with the best record of any local team, and are fresh from dominating wins over district opponents. The Streaks are hoping that they can use the positive home crowd energy to their advantage.

Our team would like to invite any and all tennis enthusiasts to come and watch," Hollinger said.

Nisha Patel, Micaela DeVane, and Alaina Keith are just some of Sebring's singles players to keep an eye on. The trio was immaculate for post of the season, rarely dropping games to their opponents, let alone sets.

The trio wrapped up the regular season with straight set wins over district opponents from Hardee and Avon Park.

And in doubles, the Streaks are just as deadly. The combination of Patel and DeVane has devesated opponents, and is often clinches the match in Sebring's favor. The No. 2 doubles team of Keith and Ashley Castelli has been just as prolific, dispatching opponents with ease throughout the season.

Who Sebring must look out for is the Lemon Bay Manta Rays, who breezed through district play undefeated. The Rays' only hiccups came against non-district opponents from larger schools. In Sebring's only meeting with Lemon Bay in the regular season, the Streaks fell 7-0.

Avon Park, however, has a large amount of optimism heading into the tournament. The Devils are littered with newcomers, and coach Ashley Falis sees the postseason as a way to get better.

"Our outlook for districts is the same as our outlook for the regular season," she said. "We are looking forward to gaining more experience and continuing to improve our game."

And with the Devils about to jump into one of Central Florida's most competitive districts, she's hoping that her team comes away with a solid understanding of what it takes to improve.

"Most of our girls have never touched a racket before this year," Falis said. "They've already made significant improvements and this will be their first time at a district tournament. I think it will give them a chance to understand what it's all about so we're better prepared for next season."