Friday, May 29, 2015


Saint Xavier extended its domination of the Kentucky Boys Tennis State Championships by winning their seventh straight title, and 24th in school history. It is not the first time the Tigers have clinched 7 titles in a row, they enjoyed a similar winning streak between 1996 and 2002. St. X overpowered Covington Catholic 3-0 to capture the team state title on Friday, and went on to capture more medals in Saturday’s individual events.

The Tigers lost six of their top ten players from last season, but didn’t feel their absence. According to the coach Kerry Lancaster, having more competitive matches under their belt throughout the year than the opposition is the main reason for the prolonged success. Among them, a six-place finish at the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Boys A Division.

“It may sound cliché, but we outwork everybody,” Lancaster said. “We practice more than anybody. They play more throughout the winter and the summer. We play a lot. We’re more like a college team the way we travel and the teams we play. They are used to playing in this environment.”

To capture the team state title it was the duo of Matt Graft and Kameron Akrami who cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 victory at No.1 doubles match to put the Tigers ahead. Drew Singerman extended St. Xavier’s lead with a comfortable 6-1, 6-1 win at No.2 singles, leaving Spencer Blanford the honor to securing the title in his first state championship match as a Tiger. The sophomore handled the pressure well with a 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles to seal the victory.

“This is my first time playing; I just missed it last year by two people,” Blanford said. “It was a lot of fun. I just couldn’t let it get to me. I just had to stay focused and block everything out.”

The Tigers’ triumph inspired Brandon Lancaster to defend his state singles title next day. The St. Xavier High School senior defeated teammate Drew Singerman 6-2, 6-2 to win the Kentucky Singles State Championship. Since losing to Austin Hussey in the state finals of his sophomore season, Lancaster became impossible to beat. The University of Louisville signee didn’t lose a set and dropped just 13 games on route to the state title. Nonetheless, he still had memories of that heart-breaking final loss.

“I couldn’t drive the ball through the court to beat Austin because he’s so good defensively,” Lancaster said. “I was pretty offensive then, but I’m even more offensive now. That’s what I’ve been working on the past couple of years – a bigger serve, a bigger forehand, finishing at the net. That’s what helped me win these two.”

In the doubles final, the Tigers’ top-seeded team of Matt Graft and Kamron Akrami had to settle for second place after losing a gut wrenching three-setter 4-6, 7-6, 8-10 to McCracken County’s Tommy Hagan and Logan McKinney.

This minor blip didn’t affect Kerry Lancaster’s mood. The St. Xavier coach had another reason to be happy after his son Brandon claimed the singles title. However, he was also relieved to see his kid move on to college and stop joking around with teammate Singerman.

“They absolutely drive me nuts in the car and the hotel,” Kerry Lancaster said. “They just act like children around each other and have so much fun with each other and pick on each other. They mostly just double-team the rest of our team.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The Vandebilt Catholic Boys secured their second Louisiana Division II Boys Tennis State Championship title in as many years after a neck and neck finish with co-champions St. Michael. Both teams accumulated 11 points throughout the event and cherished the victory. For Terriers, it was the eighth state crown in school history.

It was once again the doubles players who made the difference for Vandebilt Catholic. In a rematch of last year’s doubles state final, Mason Melancon and Conner Doyle, defeated teammates Reese Dantin and Jacob Fournier to win the Louisiana Division II Doubles State Championship. 

Mason and Doyle looked a class above opponents, beating a pair of teams from San Houston and others from Caddo Magnet and St. Michael en route to the final.

Dantin and Fournier overcame opposition from Assumption, West Ouachita, Neville and Ruston before falling short in the championship match.

Such a dominant performance drew deserved plaudits from Terriers’ coach Jake Clements.

“We had some pretty tough draws going in,” said Clements. “We knew it would be them or us, just as it was last year. Our doubles teams have been working hard. Doubles is always a point of emphasis for us and you can tell with our results. I am so proud of the boys. They had a bigger target on them because people knew what we were bringing and what we are capable of after last year. The kids all supported each other and it was a real team accomplishment.”

For Clements, the key ingredients to success were preparation, hard work and humility. The Terriers' tough schedule tests players’ endurance and mental strength. Competing in others events such as the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Boys B Division, where Vandebilt Cathollic finished in 6th place was the ideal rehearsal for the state championships. 

“Unlike other sports, these kids are expected to play three whole matches in the first day of the state tournament,” Clements said. “Physically, we prepare all year for that type of gauntlet. Mentally, it is tough because if you win, you are expected to play again within the hour. It’s easy to have letdowns after tough matches, so I have to stay in their ears and remind them to stay focused on our tennis and what we have control of.”

While the Louisiana Division II State Champion is looking forward to a well-deserved rest in the summer, Clements has already set his sights on the third consecutive title. He is sure his players will keep practicing even without his presence. But who would not, when a chance to make history and lift a beautiful trophy is within their grasp?

“The trophy is much heavier than it looks,” said a smiling Clements. “It’s such a special moment – a culmination of everything I put them through during the season. To take the trophy, hand it to my seniors, and see them walk over to the rest of my boys is very special. … Most of my players won’t play a meaningful match of tennis again once they leave high school. This is their Super Bowl, and being able to see them accomplish this goal is the highlight of my year.”


Jenks High School is the new Oklahoma Class 6A Boys Tennis State Champion. The Trojans' title run ended a three-year streak of finishing as runner-up. Jenks' victory also halted Edmond North’s five-year dominance, the Trojans collected 29 points, 7 more than second-placed Edmond Memorial.

When the Trojans’ coach Ron Acebo introduced new blood into the team, many feared the lack of experience would hamper their chances to succeed. As it turned out, the talented newcomers reinvigorated the team and brought the belief that this could be their year, long before the state championships started.

Jenks finished as runner-up at the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Boys B Division. The result served as a confidence boost for the Trojans to make the push for the state championship. On the eve of the event, Ron Acebo was full of hope his team can handle the pressure and bring home the title.

“I think this team is a little bit more optimistic,” Acebo said. “I think they really believe they have a chance to win because Edmond North is no longer that dominant. In years past, it’s always been (Edmond) North having the big, dominant No. 1 and No. 2 singles and the No. 1 doubles, and this year it’s more evenly divided.”

Acebo's assesment was extremely accurate. Sophomore Scott Hjelm played a pivotal role in Jenks’ win, as his 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Edmond Memorial’s Blake Cherry in the No.2 singles final sealed the title for the Trojans. Braden Singleton and Daniel Archer also made a hefty contribution as they clinched the No.2 doubles event. 

Since becoming Jenks coach in August 2007, it took Acebo eight years to deliver the first state championship title. Suffice to say, he was a happy and relieved man.

“We’ve come close so many times. I think we’ve maybe had five or six runner-ups,” Ron Acebo said. “I mean, we’ve always been on the cusp and it’s been real exciting to finally win it outright. That’s made it so much more special.”

Acebo went on to praise the players who won their respective events and propelled the Trojans to the top of the standings. 

Hjelms battle with Cherry to clinch the title came with all odds against him. Cherry won convincingly won their previous meeting, earlier in the season, but Jenks’ sophomore adapted quickly to the conditions and dictated the rallies.

“It was more like I want to win for my team,” Hjelm said. “This win sealed it for us, so this is a big match.”

Acebo was impressed by Hjelm’s desire to win as he watched his player rushing to the net and hitting winners after winners.

“I saw a little bit of that throughout the season,” Acebo said. “He had some up-and-down matches, but when the young man is on, he is very hard to beat and he really showed it today.”

After years of finishing second in the state championships, Jenks took advantage of its opponents’ struggles and made one decisive step towards the title. Now that the ice has finally been broken, the Trojans are well-positioned to go on a lengthy winning streak in the years to come.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


The Cambridge Girls’ Varsity Tennis Team got some sweet revenge while claiming the first state title in school history. The Bears sweeping defending champion Starr’s Mill 3-0 to clinch the Georgia Class 5A State Championship and cap a 17-2 drumming of their opponents through the state tournament.

Fresh off a 5th place finish at the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division, the Bears used a blend of experienced seniors and talented freshman in their roster – the perfect success formula. Aimee Dervishian at No. 1 singles, Karah James at No.2 singles and Hannah Baird at No.3 singles produced solid tennis on the way to the title, while Brenna Feirer, Kiley Dempsey, Alyssa McDonald and Hannah Walden took care of the doubles encounters.

The girls’ triumph made the entire school proud, but if there was one person who enjoyed it like no one else, it was the Bears coach Leigh Popp.

"The girls played the best I have ever seen them play, so that was very rewarding,” said Popp. Winning the state championship was a fitting end to Popp’s coaching adventure, as she is stepping down to have a baby in July. The soon-to-be mother acknowledged the strength of the opponent and the rivalry, which is growing stronger by the year.

“Starr's Mill has definitely become our biggest rival in the last 3 years. We had a tight, controversial match against them in 2012 in the semi-finals that we ended up losing. We played another great match last season in the state championship but came up short. This season, we set our goal early to win the state championship and beat Starr's Mill doing just that, so taking the title from Starr's Mill was very rewarding."

Popp also praised her six seniors who led the team by example, and the younger girls who have some big shoes to fill next year. "Our seniors have helped create a name for Cambridge tennis in Georgia. We're not stopping there as we continue to add great talent. With the addition of two freshman in the starting lineup, (Hanna Giddings and Katey Fruehauf), we have been unstoppable."


Despite a year full of adversity Ocean Springs maintained their championship form with a 4-3 victory over Northwest Rankin to claim its sixth straight Mississippi Class 6A State Championship. The Greyhounds showed incredible grit and determination in route to victory. For the second straight year Ocean Springs needed all seven matches to be crowned state champion. 

It has been a year full of challenges for the Greyhounds who had to deal with several unexpected changes in their roster, and overcome inexperience to land their sixth title. In the end, coach Kathy Gendron made the right selections and found the correct words to motivate her players.

"This year was absolutely different," Gendron said in an interview for the Sun Herald. "I lost two of my boys’ players, one to home schooling and one moved. I had a lot of ninth grade boys move up. I feel like nobody thought we would make it this far much less win."

Among the Greyhounds who brought valuable points on board are Andre Bowie, with a 6-2, 7-5 in boys’ singles; No 2 boys doubles pair of Slay Wanger and Michael Phillips, with a comfortable 6-0, 6-2 victory, and Kate Weatherly who gained the girls singles point with a straightforward 6-2, 6-1 win. 

While the players performed admirably on courts, watching them from the sidelines was a nerve-wracking experience Gendron.

"This was a very different, very stressful state championship win,” she concluded bluntly.

Besides winning the team event, Ocean Springs enjoyed yet another success in the Class 6A Doubles State Championship. For the second straight year, Amanda Kilduff and Olivia Nash beat teammates Sophie St. Amant and Kate Weatherly for the title. Kilduff and Nash finished the job in three entertaining sets 1-6, 6-3 6-3 to become Mississippi Class 6A Doubles State Champion. 

The girls, who finished seventh in the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division in March, were delighted to capture another title.

"We've played together so much that we just know what the other one is going to do," said Kilduff. "We just flow with each other on the court. We know what's going on in the other's brains."

The victory was always going to be bittersweet, considering who was on the other side of the net.

“It's really hard playing teammates in any situation but you have to make the best of it and push through and that's what we did," Kilduff said.

Overall it felt like another day at the office for the Mississippi Class 6A State Champion. The consistency with which Ocean Springs adds title after title to its trophy cabinet deserves recognition and appreciation. 

Coach Gendron hopes today’s triumph will inspire younger generation to perform with the same heart and dedication in the years to come. 

"I think it will make the younger kids realize anything is possible if we work hard and prepare each year," she stated. "From the minute we get on the bus to go to practice to every match. They have to prepare year round to make our varsity team."

Thursday, May 14, 2015


The Walton High School Girls secured their third straight Georgia Class 6A State Championship, and won their thirteenth title in the last fifteen years. The Lady Raiders were in imperious form and dispatched their opponents with ease, the Raiders went unbeaten in state tournament play outscoring opponents 15-0, including the 3-0 victory in the state finals against Kennesaw Mountain.

With talent and experience in abundance, Walton’s march to victory always seemed a foregone conclusion. Five of team’s seven starters are seniors who have seen and done it all before. Suzanne Zenoni, Bella Kruse, Jessica Cramer and Johanna Keeline will compete at the collegiate level next season. Even so, the girls felt an added pressure to succeed when Walton’s boys reached the Class 6A State Championship final. With a rare boy/girl double championship on the line, for the first time since 2002, the Lady Raiders couldn't afford any slip-ups.

“We’re so excited,” said Walton girls coach Christy Lewis, who returned to coaching for the first time since going on maternity leave. “(The boys) had an awesome match in the semifinals. These girls have been playing together for four years and they’re looking to go out on top.”

The final day arrived, and the girls duly delivered. Johanna Keeline, a Concordia signee, brought the first point on board with a 6-0, 6-0 victory at No.3 singles, to wrap up an impressive, undefeated career at Walton. Jessica Cramer, a UC-San Diego signee, and Sophia Guldberg stormed through their No.2 doubles final with an identical 6-0, 6-0 scoreline. Senior Bella Kruse, who signed with Richmond, clinched the state title for the Raiders with her 6-2, 6-0 win over Samantha Armas at No.2 singles. Kuse produced a consistent performance from the baseline, moving her opponent, before hitting winners and forcing the errors.

Walton’s jewel, No.1 singles player Suzanne Zenoni was in complete command against Nicole Croxton 6-2 4-1 when her match was pulled off court, while twin sisters Grace and Emily Gaskins managed to take just a set (6-4) off Chika Okonkow and Sophia Suri at No.1 doubles, before the match was abandoned.

She may have wanted to spend a bit more time on court, but Suzanne Zenoni was still over the moon once the event has ended. It has been a splendid year so far for the Elon signee. Zenoni was the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division Most Valuable Player, while her team, Walton, was crowned the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division Champion.

“It means a lot to our seniors to have won three straight,” a delighted Zenoni said to Marrieta Daily Journal. “It’s great to leave with a win.”

The senior showed remarkable maturity and took nothing for granted. “We’ve been here a lot and experienced this. Not many get to leave with one championship, so winning three is amazing.”

Walton coach Christy Lewis also paid tribute to her players. “The seniors were ready to dominate, so they can go out on a high note and end their careers well.”

Walton Girls’ achievement became more significant when Walton Boys joined the celebration party. The Raiders survived a nail-biting final against Northview to take home the first title since 2002. The unlikely double marks the pinnacle of Georgia Class 6A Girls State Champion who will now let its talented core of players move to college to conquer new heights.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Pine Crest, 2015 DecoTurf High school Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division Finalist, claimed the Florida Class 2A tennis state championship in emphatic style, winning the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 singles events, as well as the No. 2 doubles final. The girls from Fort Lauderdale collected 16 points for their efforts, 6 more than runner-up Lake Highland Prep.

Led by co–captains, seniors Kaely Malik and Ines de Bracamonte, along with sophomore Stephanie Taylor, Broward County’s reigning Girls Player of the Year, the Panthers produced a dominant performance to take home the title.

For most teams, finishing first at the state championships is the hardest task. For Pine Crest, getting there for only the second time in 34 years was arguably the toughest endeavor. Back in February, Pine Crest coach Bret Krutz wasn't even sure whether its team can come through the regionals after Miami’s Gulliver Prep, the 2014 State Champions in Class 2A moved into Pine Crest’s region.

“We’re probably one of the top two or three teams in the state in [Class 2A],” Kurtz said in an interview for Miami Herald. “If we get to regionals and face Gulliver, whoever wins that might win state.” Two months later his words would become prophetic.

Pine Crest began its preparation for the district tournament by finishing as runner-up at the prestigious 2015 DecoTurf High school Tennis Team Championships Girls A Division. The Panthers went on to defeat their arch rivals Gulliver Prep 4-1 in the regional final, booking a well-deserved place in the state championships.

Once they have reached the promised land, Pine Crest seized the opportunity and dominated the proceedings from the get-go. The girls took inspiration from the Panthers’ boys who also overcame Gulliver Prep, and were crowned champions three years ago.

Stephanie Taylor reached the semi-finals of the Girls’ No. 1 Singles bracket, before losing in straight sets to Katherine Sidor 6-1, 6-0. Daniele Obolevitch won an epic final in the No. 2 Singles event. After cruising in the semi-final past Sydney Clark 6-1, 6-1, Obolevitch played a marathon match against Kaylan Rotman, decided only in a tie-break set 6-4, 5-7, 11-9. The 17-year-old added a second winning the No. 2 Doubles competition with Ines de Bracamonte. De Bracamonte/Obolevitch rolled to a 6-1; 6-1 victory over Stanton's Derstine/Hamzagic in the final.

The honors kept coming thick and fast for the Pine Crest players. Kaely Malik strolled past the top seed Kaitlin Reuther 7-6(2), 6-3 in the No. 3 Singles final; fifteen-year-old Carly Feldman handed two bagels to Kate Henley in the No. 4 singles decider, while eight-grader Demi Snyder lost just one game on her way to the title at No. 5 singles.

This marvelous success is testament to Pine Crest’s togetherness, belief and “never give up” attitude. The Panthers, who also showcased their talent and skills on the biggest stage as a finalist at the DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships, deservedly became Florida Class 2A State Champion. The state title is the Panthers first outright title in school history and the second overall after sharing the title with Saint Stephen's Episcopal School in 1981. Having tasted success on the state stage, the girls from Fort Lauderdale will make sure they don’t have to wait another 34years for the next trophy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


The 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships Boys A Division Champion, Wiregrass Ranch, successfully retained their Class 3A state title at the 2015 Florida High School Tennis State Championships. The Bulls were in scintillating form throughout the event, taking home four of a possible five titles, and securing the team championship with doubles still to play. As the dust settled over the action-packed courts, Wiregrass Ranch showed remarkable consistency and dominance to finish with 16 points, double that of the runners-up Tallahassee Leon and Jenson Beach.

While the victory seemed never in doubt, the path to glory was far from easy. The atmosphere within the team was relaxed, but everyone was 100% focused on the upcoming battles. The Bulls played with flair and enthusiasm, high-fiving the winners and laughing off the unforced errors. Confidence was sky-high and the competitive arrogance displayed by each player pushed the Bulls to their second straight state title. 2015 DecoTurf Championships MVP, junior Agie Moreno, had to overcome a tricky jet lag on Monday, after arriving late Saturday following an international tournament in California. The Bulls' young star struggled against Jensen Beach’s Colter Decoste in the semi-final, but emerged victorious 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. Moreno rolled to the No. 1 Singles title with a 6-4, 6-1 over Gulf Coast's William Shisler in the finals. No. 3 singles player Alexandro Feliciano claimed a pair of comfortable victories before pushing past Leon's Drew Brown 6-7(2); 6-3; 6-2 in the finals.

Wiregrass Ranch coach Dave Wilson made a bold decision pairing brothers Daniel and Agie Moreno at the No. 1 doubles position for the first time. The change proved to be successful as skillful brothers swept aside their opening round opponents 6-2 6-0. In the end, the doubles overall title evaded Wiregrass Ranch as they fell to Gulf Coast's Jagodzinski/Shisler 6-4, 6-2 in the semi-finals. Wiregrass Ranch's doubles duo of  Alejandro Feliciano & Foresight Okungbowa claimed the No. 2 doubles title without dropping a set. 

The highlight of the championships was Agie Moreno’s second Florida Class 3A State Champion title in as many years. However, the triumph left a bitter-sweet taste to the newly crowned champion as his opponent, Justin Hall, withdrew from the Overall Singles Final final due to injury.

“It feels great to win it for the school (only the second state team title in school history),” confessed Moreno. “I started out a little foggy, a little jet-lagged, and then I had to adjust a little to the (faster) courts. But it all worked out.”

Dave Wilson, the mastermind behind this year’s success admitted that his team’s participation in the championships was in doubt. The Bulls had to progress through the regionals without their best two players, who were competing in California.

“It was doubtful we would even get here,” a visibly delighted Wilson said of his squad’s 4-2 and 4-3 regional victories. “All of our guys came through.”

Defending a title is always more difficult than winning it for the first time. Consistency has always been the mark of the champions. Wiregrass Ranch has a few diamonds in the rough in it ranks who could potentially go on and grace the biggest tennis courts in the world. Forging a winning attitude and habits from the early age will make the difference in the future battles.

Friday, May 1, 2015


The girls of American Heritage tennis team always their eyes set on bringing glory to their school. In fact, they have consistently shown that they are on top of their game, and they proved it once again after bagging their ninth state team title capturing a state record 21 points. The Stallions State Championship run followed a third place finish in the 2015 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships just three weeks earlier.

The Stallions aced all singles matches and six doubles matches during the two-day Florida Class 1A State Tournament. Lagging behind them was Miami-Ransom Everglades.

The American Heritage girls’ tennis team initially had a perfect 10-0 record it singles matches on the opening day of tournament play. A pair of doubles wins to round out the day gave them the maximum of 12 points, a two-point edge over runner up and 2014 DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships champion Ransom Everglades.

Leading the team to the title was DecoTurf High School Tennis Team Championships All-Tournament Team selection Angelica Blake, who during a key number one singles match, beat Carrollwood’s top seed Jacquelyn Fitz-Randolph 6-0, 6-1. Fellow All-Tournament Team selection Melissa Sakar defeated Ransom Everglades’ number two seed Heather Boehm for the number two singles title with a score of 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.

Also bagging singles titles for the Stallions were sophomore Kacey Moore, who in a 6-1, 6-2 game beat Ransom’s Vivien Fernandez. Freshman Taylor Kogan and 7th grader Nina Slager also won the number four singles titles and number five title, respectively, for the Stallions during the tournament.

Single were not the only place where the American Heritage girls’ tennis team excelled. With superb net play and service games, the partnerships of Blake and Sakar and Kogan and Moore took home doubles titles.

"It feels great," said Brian Schleifer, American Heritage’s tennis coach. “It feels great,” longtime Stallions coach Brian Schleifer said. “The girls came out and played so well today. There was so much heart and intensity, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

"Blake was the one who set the tone for the entire team." Schleifer mentioned. He believes that the youthful player has greatly improved since she first played for the Stallions two-years ago in the state tournament. The coach also noted "Angelica will likely remain as the number one seed for a long time."

Under Schleifer’s tutelage, the Stallions have won nine state title since he established the program in 1997.