Of the eight state tennis titles available last season, Broward County won five.
Cypress Bay swept the boys and girls titles in Class 4A. In addition, Pine Crest’s girls won in 2A, American Heritage’s boys won in 2A and Sagemont’s boys took home a 1A trophy, an honor it shared with Bradenton’s St. Stephens.
Of all those teams, perhaps none is a bigger favorite in 2016 than the Cypress Bay girls, who are seeking their third straight state title.
The Lightning return its top five players, and all of them are seniors who have earned tennis scholarships for college.
Shene Disbergen, who plays No. 1 singles, signed with Virginia Tech, and No. 2 singles player Sibel Can is a Lehigh recruit. Both players were runners-up as individuals last season, and they combined to win the title at No. 1 doubles. The No. 3 and No. 4 singles players are identical twins —Michelle and Samara Eisenberg. The two Binghamton recruits also team up to play No. 2 doubles.
“They are inseparable,” Cypress Bay coach Marina Andreoni-Stewart said of the twins, who are both interested in a math-related major in college. “I can tell them apart by their hair styles.”
Cypress Bay’s No. 5 singles player is Laura Herrera, who has signed to play for Notre Dame College, a Division II school in Ohio. Herrera also won an individual state title last season at No. 5 singles.
Now this Fab Five gets ready for one more ride through the ranks of high school tennis, which will culminate with the state finals April 11-15 at Sanlando Park.
“It’s bittersweet,” Samara Eisenberg said of her senior season. “We’ve had a lot of success and a lot of fun. But it’s kind of sad because it’s almost over.”
Cypress Bay’s dominant run began when these five seniors were freshmen. The Lightning lost the 2013 state title by one point to Tampa Plant.
“That championship came down to No. 1 doubles,” Andreoni-Stewart said. “We won the first set, but we lost the next two.
“We were young that year. We had all these 14- and 15-year-old freshmen. That was their first time at state, and they faced a lot of pressure.”
Now it’s Cypress Bay’s opponents who face the pressure – after all, they have to play against this formidable lineup.
The lineup could have been even deeper had Pierina Imparato opted to play. Imparato, who will play for Charlotte in Conference USA next season, competed for Cypress Bay as a freshman and sophomore but has been home-schooled since, Andreoni-Stewart said.
No worries for the Lightning, though — their lineup is still the envy of just about every coach in Florida.
American Heritage figures to be a favorite to repeat as Class 2A state champion on the boys’ side.
The Patriots return a talented lineup led by junior Jordan Skalet, last year’s Class 2A state overall singles runner-up, and senior Zack Ebenfeld, who has signed with Rochester Polytechnic Institute.
March 28-April 2: District playoffs.
April 5-7: Regional playoffs.
April 11-15: State playoffs.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Boys — Class 4A: Cypress Bay; 3A: Wiregrass Ranch; 2A: Plantation American Heritage; 1A: Sagemont/Bradenton St. Stephens. Girls — 4A: Cypress Bay; 3A: Lakewood Ranch; 2A: Pine Crest; 1A: Delray American Heritage.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
Boys: Vincent Altino, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Sam Dern, Pine Crest, Sr.; Zack Ebenfeld, American Heritage, Sr.; Brandon Shanklin, Somerset, Sr.; Jordan Skalet, American Heritage, Jr. Others to watch: Austin DeBruyne, Sagemont, Sr.; Romare Gonzalez, American Heritage, Jr.
Girls: Sibel Can, Cypress Bay, Sr.; Shene Disbergen, Cypress Bay, Sr.; Michelle Eisenberg, Cypress Bay, Sr.; Samara Eisenberg, Cypress Bay, Sr.; Stephanie Taylor, Pine Crest, Jr. Others to watch: Simona Babb, North Broward Prep, Sr.; Samantha Fine, Coral Springs, Jr.; Aleksi Gottlieb, American Heritage, Sr.; Laura Herrera, Cypress Bay, Sr.
Note: For complete team-by-team outlooks, visit the online version of this story at www.miamiherald.com/ high-schools