Miami-Dade High School tennis | State championships

Gulliver boys’ and girls’ tennis teams sweep 2A titles


Alex Knight took home the Class 4A overall singles crown on Friday, only the second Krop player to ever do so. In 2A, Gulliver’s boys won singles and doubles.

Special to The Miami Herald

It would be a little bit of a stretch to label Alex Knight a giant slayer. There’s no question, though, he’ll take a special place in Dr. Krop tennis history.

Knight etched his name as the school’s second overall singles champion Friday, winning the Class 4A crown with a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over defending title holder Sebastian Beltrame.

“It’s an honor. I’m humbled,” said Knight, who broke the big Olympia lefthander early in each set at Sanlando Park.

Coral Gables also crowned a state champion, winning the 4A doubles crown behind Alfredo Perez and Mirko Radosevic. Gulliver Prep’s boys, meanwhile, cleaned out what was left of the Class 2A hardware with a sweep of both titles.

Chase Perez-Blanco captured the 2A overall singles in straight sets over Constantin Supper (Suncoast). A short time later, a doubles crown with Baker Newman completed Gulliver’s full collection — the team title, all seven division winners and both overall titles.

“It’s a great feeling, winning everything as a team,” Perez-Blanco said.

The Raiders’ perfect mark matched the feat of the 2009 boys, when Chris Jackman and Raleigh Smith spearheaded a performance that dispatched all comers.

“Having strength in every position is what it is,” said coach Kelly Mulligan, who has guided Gulliver’s boys to six of the past seven titles. “That kind of depth, with national [elite] players at the top, is a similarity.”

The Gulliver girls added to their collection, too. Olivia Thaler, stung by a loss to Lake Nona’s Priyanka Shah for the singles crown, found a second wind in doubles as she and Julieta Dalmau won a three-set victory over Shah and Maria Cespedes.

After playing eight sets Thursday in leading Gulliver to the team title, Thaler’s tank was running low as she took the court for the singles final.

“I was too focused on how tired I was. You can’t play like that,” said Thaler, who used the time between matches to adjust her mind-set.

“I didn’t want to take my negativity to my doubles match. I wanted to win to make up for what I lost [in singles].”

Knight, who last year played No. 2 singles for Krop, wound up dispatching both of last year’s 4A singles finalists to claim the trophy. He upended top seed Ryan Smith (Cypress Bay) to claim his spot in the final. In both sets against Beltrame, Knight captured the final four games.

“I knew it was going to be a big dogfight,” Knight said. “When I broke [Beltrame’s serve] to go up 4-2 in the first set, it gave me a lot of confidence. Now I know I can break him; let’s take it to him.”

Said coach Mike Kypriss: “His move from last year to now has been really impressive.”

Though Krop has captured four boys’ titles in the past decade, only William Federhofer (2009) had taken home the overall singles.

Coral Gables’ Perez and Radosevic, also doubles partners on the USTA junior circuit, fell behind early in the 4A doubles before storming back to win 11 of the final 14 games.

“They play a lot of tournaments together,” Cavaliers coach David Weiner said.

“Both guys love doubles. They have really good hands, they’re really quick. They make an awesome team.”

Douglas tried to give South Florida a sweep of 4A doubles titles, but Kellyn Abbanat and Kaela Bynoe couldn’t stave off late rallies by Tampa Plant’s duo of Blair Martin and Gabby Rodriguez in a 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) setback.

“We had some tight calls at the end there, but that’s how it goes,” Douglas coach Bob Bryant said. “Those [Plant] girls are very experienced. Our girls played some incredible tennis to get this far.”

In all, eight of this year’s 16 overall champions hailed from South Florida schools, including 1A boys’ singles champion Jake Albo (Sagemont) and a sweep of 1A girls’ crowns by Delray Beach American Heritage.


Class 4A Boys Overall — Singles: Alex Knight (Krop) d. Sebastian Beltrame (Olympia), 6-2, 6-3; Doubles: Alfredo Perez/Mirko Radosevic (Coral Gables) d. Sebastian Beltrame/Kaden Funk (Olympia), 6-3, 6-2; Girls Overall Singles: Alizee Michaud (Dr. Phillips) d. Joulia Likhanskaia (Winter Park), 6-3, 7-6 (7-1); Doubles: Blair Martin/Gabby Rodriguez (Plant) d. Kellyn Abbanat/Kaela Bynoe (Douglas), 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

Class 2A Boys Overall — Singles: Chase Perez-Blanco (Gulliver) d. Constantin Supper (Suncoast), 6-2, 6-1; Doubles: Chase Perez-Blanco/Baker Newman (Gulliver) d. David Onsky/Ryan Khan (University), 7-5, 7-5; Girls Overall Singles: Priyanka Shah (Lake Nona) d. Olivia Thaler (Gulliver), 6-0, 6-1; Doubles: Olivia Thaler/Julieta Dalmau (Gulliver) d. Priyanka Shah/Maria Cespedes (Lake Nona), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

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