SEBRING - The Sebring girls tennis team capped an incredible postseason run with a hard-fought match Thursday against Lemon Bay in the Class 2A Regional Finals.
The Blue Streaks, who hadn't won a regional match since 2004, beat Golden Gate (Naples) 5-2 in first round before falling 0-5 to the Manta Rays.
"We had a great season, finishing the year as regional runner-up and a 12-2 record," Sebring coach Jane Hollinger said. "Lemon Bay is a really strong program and I was proud to see our girls play so hard."
In No. 1 singles, Sebring's Nisha Patel fell to Lemon Bay's Linda Antonova in straight sets by scores of 1-6 and 2-6.
Sebring's Micaela DeVane pushed Lemon Bay's Jessica Lown to the brink in No. 2 singles. After winning a hard-fought opening set 7-6 (7-5), DeVane couldn't hold the momentum, as Lown rebounded to win the final two sets by scores of 6-2 and 6-1.
Sebring's Alaina Keith fell ill before the match, causing the players to move up one spot in the lineup. So Sebring's Sarah Beth Rogers, usually the No. 4 singles player, competed in No. 3 singles against Lemon Bay's Sara Lown. Rogers lost in straight sets by scores of 0-6 and 2-6.
"You used to be able to insert your alternate into the open slot," Hollinger said. "But under the new Florida High School Athletic Association guidelines, you must bump your players up one spot."
Sebring's Ashley Castelli moved up to No. 4 singles, falling to Lemon Bay's Maddie Casad in straight breadsticks (1-6, 1-6).
Amanda Rios stepped in at No. 5 singles for Sebring, losing to Lemon Bay's Ashley Tormey in straight sets by scores of 2-6 and 3-6.
Sebring has been a perennial contender in regionals under Hollinger's tenure, reaching the state finals in 2002 and 2003. But next season brings new challenges, as the Streaks will lose five seniors.
"We'll be losing a great group of girls," Hollinger said. "But we have a strong group coming up as well. Hopefully they'll keep playing over the summer and surprise me."