The field wasn’t as complete as originally intended, but for the Nature Coast boys and girls tennis teams, what turned out be a county invitational this week proved a rewarding experience.
While the boys went down to the wire to edge Weeki Wachee, the Lady Sharks dominated two other county squads, as both captured first place in the tournament that was held Thursday and Friday at Delta Woods Park.
Though this event was intended to be a rekindling of the long-defunct county tournament, Central and Springstead both declined to attend, citing conflicts with testing. Hernando’s girls team also didn’t participate.
On the boys side, the Sharks came in first with 11 points, followed closely by the Hornets with 10. Hernando finished with five points and Hernando Christian Academy had one.
The difference was the final match played late Thursday, the number two doubles final. Nature Coast’s duo of Braydon Hotchkiss and Cayden Muir defeated Weeki Wachee’s Josh Bodulich and Matt Armstrong, 8-2 in a pro set.
In singles play, the Hornets received finals victories from Bailey Hypes at No. 1, downing Hernando’s Rory Williams, 6-3, 6-1, and Harrison Rosser at No. 2, bouncing Nature Coast’s Alec Priede, 6-2, 6-1.
Mark Cabahug won at No 3, knocking off Bodulich in the final, 6-2, 4-6, 10-6. Hotchkiss beat Armstrong for the win at No. 4, 6-4, 7-5.
Muir added a critical triumph at No. 5 when he defeated the Hornets’ Kyle Pogue, 6-2, 6-3, in the championship match. Hypes and Rosser topped Roger Sniffen and Priede in the No. 1 doubles finale, 8-5.
“We played down a little bit because we had kids who couldn’t make it, either through testing or job. The kids who were there played to their ability,” Nature Coast boys coach Tom Brown said. “It was a nice win for us. It was also a wakeup call because the other teams were right on our heels.”
As for the Lady Sharks, they scored 17 points compared to 12 for HCA and two for Weeki Wachee. The girls side was played under a different format, with all the players thrown into one bracketed tournament.
Individually, the winner was sophomore Sierra Remondelli, who bested HCA’s Katherine Moore in Friday’s final, 6-2, 1-6, 10-7. Interestingly, Remondelli is actually the typical No. 3 singles player in the Nature Coast lineup, but she defeated No. 1 Angela Cabahug in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-1.
“(Remondelli) played probably the best I’ve ever seen her play. She’s only a sophomore in her second year. She was unstoppable (Friday),” said Nature Coast girls coach Kristine Brown, whose team is 6-0 so far this season. “All three of (the team’s top players) are very equal in ability and challenge for spots. Sierra had never beaten Angela before, but she beat her (Friday) for the first time.
“She came out confident. Her forehand shots were unreturnable most of the time. Her serve was on. Coming to the net and volleying; her whole game was completely on.”
In doubles, the Lady Sharks’ No. 2 team of Makenzie Vraspir and Remondelli beat the No. 1 pairing of Cabahug and Nicole Remedio, 6-4, to win that part of the tournament, as well.
“It was great experience for districts and I think the girls, they’re even more determined to win,” Kristine Brown said. “Their goal is to try to go undefeated.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.