SEBRING - Tennis fans were treated to a stellar showcase of some of the Heartland's best prep players over the weekend.
Sebring, Avon Park, and Lake Placid all took part in the annual Heartland Conference Tournament over the weekend, which included Hardee and Okeechobee. The Blue Streaks hosted the girls matches while the Red Devils hosted the boys.
Sebring's girls dominated the competition, cruising into first place with 21 points. Lake Placid finished second with 11 points and Hardee placed third with seven. Okeechobee was fourth with three points and Avon Park rounded out the group in fifth place with zero points.
Okeechobee edged Sebring for first place on the boys side. The Brahmans tallied 19 points to the Streaks 15. Lake Placid finished third with seven points, while Avon Park and Hardee tied for fourth place with one point.
"The girls played very strong," said Streaks coach Jane Hollinger. "The tournament was very competitive this year. Lake Placid and Hardee have really improved."
In high school tennis, playing a tournament during the season counts as two matches. Hollinger said it really behooved all the teams to play hard, especially considering every team is a member of Class 2A-District 11.
"I'm really pleased with how we've been playing," Hollinger said. "We've just been really steady."
Sebring breezed through singles play. The Streaks defeated all of their opponents in straight sets. No. 1 singles player Nisha Patel defeated Lake Placid's Hannah Waller by scores of 6-1, 6-3, Micaela DeVane captured the No. 2 singles over Hardee's Caroline Durrance by scores of 6-2, 6-1, and Alaina Keith brushed off Hardee's Rachael Shattler in the No. 3 singles, 6-1, 6-1.
In No. 4 singles, Sebring's Sarah Beth Rogers defeated Hardee's Abby Clark by scores of 6-1, 6-1 while Ashley Castelli cruised past Lake Placid's Camille Shattler, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 5 singles.
The Streaks were just as prolific in doubles.
Patel and DeVane teamed up in No. 1 doubles to take down Lake Placid's Claire LeBlanc and Waller, 6-0, 7-6(7-4). Keith and Castelli slayed two more Green Dragons in the No. 2 doubles match, defeating Shattler and Abigail Campbell by scores of 6-1, 6-0.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Streaks, though.
"We have a really tough week coming up," Hollinger said. "We play district rival Lemon Bay again, and last time we got crunched. We also play George Jenkins. But I think the girls are up to the challenge."
Meanwhile, in the boys match, the Brahmans got the better of Highlands County.
Sebring's No. 1 singles player Conner Angell scored a big win over Okeechobee's Otto Ramirez (4-6, 6-3, 6-0), but the Brahmans' swept the remaining four singles matches. Lucas Penido defeated Sebring's Milind Khurana in No. 2 singles by scores of 6-2, 6-3, Okeechobee's Cody Walker defeated James Pinkney by scores of 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, and Colt Rook dispatched Lake Placid's Landon Davis in straight sets by scores of 6-0, 6-1.
In the No. 5 singles match, Okeechobee's Dylan Ferrncec defeated Sebring's Conner Patterson, 6-4, 6-1.
Angell's stellar play earned high praise from his coach.
"Conner came out on top in the final with a huge win over Okeechobee's No. 1," said Sebring boys coach Tosin Awomewe. "He's been playing some high level tennis, and with every match he raises to the competition."
Angell is currently undefeated in singles play so far this season.
The Streaks rebounded in doubles play, as Angell and Khurana beat Okeechobee's Ramirez and Penido in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1. But the Brahmans No. 2 team responded to the loss, with Walker and Root beating Pinkney and
"My No. 1 doubles are awesome as partners," Awomewe said. "It's something I enjoy the most as coach to see my players come together not as a team, but as a family. I believe we that together we can overcome all competitors."
Angell and Khurana are also undefeated in doubles play this year.