There have been moments during TERRA Institute’s odyssey to the state tennis final when coach Monica Mejia could only look at her girls and smile.
“It’s our first time here. We didn’t know what to expect,” Mejia said Monday as the first day of the Class 3A tournament came to a chaotic end with everyone taking cover from oncoming storms.
“I’d look at the girls and say, ‘Did you think we’d ever be at states? And to play well enough to be in contention for the team championship?’ We all just laughed.”
With a little good fortune, the Wolves might get the last laugh, too.
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When play finally was called for the night at Sanlando Park, the Wolves stood just one point behind Bradenton Lakewood Ranch in a tight points race. Two doubles wins vaulted the Mustangs past TERRA, nine points to eight, with two matches still on the court.
Naples Barron Collier was third with seven points, with Gainesville High another point back.
“Everything here is gravy,” said Mejia, who got strong play at the top of the order as No.1 Sophia Adams and No.2 Michelle Adan-Pol reached the final of their brackets. No.5 Nicole Cinquino also will play for a title.
At the Class 1A tournament in nearby Casselberry, Sagemont won 10 of its 11 matches on Monday to give itself inside position for its second state crown in three years. The Lions lead the standings with 10 points, one ahead of Bradenton’s St. Stephen’s Episcopal.
Sagemont’s only loss came in its opening match, as No.1 Austin DeBruyne fell to a surging Christopher Ephron of Pensacola Catholic. But the other Lions — Christopher Tasker, Alejandro Quiros, Andres Hernandez and Luis Marcano — all reached their finals.
“My No.1 got a tough draw, but my other guys took care of that,” Sagemont coach Steven Browne said. “Everyone took care of business [Monday]. Hopefully, we’ll do that [Tuesday] as well.”
Ransom Everglades faces an uphill task in its quest for a third Class 1A girls’ crown in four years, trying to derail an American Heritage Delray squad that went unbeaten through its 12 opening-day matches.
The Stallions, who interrupted Ransom’s run by winning the 2013 crown, hold a 12-10 advantage heading into the second day. Tampa’s Carrollwood Day School is a distant third with five points.
“We’re going to have to play well to catch up,” Raiders coach Peter Lehmann said. “I think we’re knocking on the door. We’ll just see how we have to perform [Tuesday].”
The teams will square off in three singles finals, with Ransom No.2 Heather Boehm, No. 3 Vivien Fernandez and No.5 Sophie Bullard holding the keys.
Senior Daniela Lopez might have been a fourth, but she ran into a tough draw and was ousted by top seed Jacqueline Fitz-Randolph of Carrollwood.
Meanwhile, Ransom’s boys stood fourth behind Sagemont after the first day, with No.4 Patrick Visan reaching his final. Three others were eliminated in the semifinals.
“To win those points in the first round was a really good achievement for the team,” Lehmann said. “We were fighting out there, but only got Patrick Visan through.”
Monday’s real surprise, though, was TERRA’s performance. The Wolves could pull even again when play resumes, as the duo of Adams and Adam-Pol were among those stranded on the court when storms hit.
Their match had just been evened at one set apiece against Gainesville’s Emily Dush and Sara Michel.
“Win or lose,” Mejia said, “I’m going to be proud of them.”
Mourning High also got off to a hot start in the Class 3A boys’ competition, winning four of its five singles openers. All four lost in the semifinals, though its No.2 doubles team of Abdyleziz Abydov and Santiago Uribe won its opener.
CLASS 3A TEAM SCORES
Boys: (Play suspended with 4 matches on court) — Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch 9 points, Tallahassee Leon 6, Mourning 5, Naples Gulf Coast 5, Jensen Beach 5, St. Johns Bartram Trail 4, Tampa King 0, Ocala Vanguard 0.
Girls: (Play suspended with 2 matches on court) — Bradenton Lakewood Ranch 9, TERRA Institute 8, Naples Barron Collier 7, Gainesville 6, Niceville 5, Jensen Beach 1, Lakeland 0, Lecanto 0.
CLASS 1A TEAM SCORES
Boys: Sagemont 10 points, Bradenton St. Stephen’s Episcopal 9, Daytona Beach Father Lopez 6, Ransom Everglades 5, Pensacola Catholic 4, Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin 2, Gainesville Oak Hill 1, Berkeley Prep 1.
Girls: (Play suspended with one match on court) — American Heritage Delray 12 points, Ransom Everglades 10, Carrollwood Day School 5, Maclay 3, Windermere Prep 3, Bradenton St. Stephen’s Episcopal 2, West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy 1, Episcopal (Jacksonville) 1.