For the second year in a row, the Gulliver Prep boys reeled off a perfect opening day of the Class 2A state tennis championship.
The Raider girls had only one blemish.
Neither squad, though, found much breathing room when Monday’s competition had reached its conclusion.
Gainesville Eastside matched the Raiders nearly win for win on the boys’ side, finishing with 11 points to Gulliver’s perfect 12. And though the girls won 10 of 11 matches on the day, they found themselves tied with Rockledge for the top spot.
“There’s going to be some good matches — some really good matches,” said Gulliver coach Kelly Mulligan.
“I know the boys are strong with Chase [Perez-Blanco] and Baker [Newman]. But it’s another day [Tuesday], and everybody’s got to play well.”
The Gulliver boys also swept all 12 first-day matches a year ago, locking up the title before sundown as their top foes took turns knocking each other off. But it was a different story Monday, as Eastside — which won only three matches in last year’s state finals — came up stunningly strong.
The deciding factor from the No. 1 singles, where top seed Perez-Blanco ousted Eastside’s Camille Kima in the semifinals.
Every other singles bracket features Gulliver-Eastside final on Tuesday. They also square off in one doubles semifinal.
“It’s basically going to feel like a dual match,” Mulligan said. “It makes it feel more like a team thing, like you’re actually playing the school.”
It’ll be much the same on the girls’ side, where two singles finals will be Gulliver-Rockledge matchups, along with both doubles semifinals.
The big surprise for Gulliver came in the No. 3 singles, where top seed Alyssa Pujals was upended in the opening round by Rockledge’s Kaitlin Ruether.
“That was a tough draw,” said Mulligan, noting that Ruether might have been worthy of the No. 2 seed at the other end of the bracket.
At the Class 4A tournament in nearby Longwood, the Coral Gables boys again will have to find a way past Cypress Bay to claim their first title since 1972.
The Cavaliers, runner-up to Cypress Bay last year, trailed the Lightning 10-9 as Monday’s competition ended at Sanlando Park. The squads will face each other in two singles finals, along with both doubles semifinals.
“If we can win those two doubles matches, we have a chance,” said coach David Weiner, who saw two singles semifinals get to third-set tiebreakers with mixed results. No. 3 Daniel Spatz advanced, but No. 4 Cristian Gazzolo fell to Spanish River’s Charles Sullivan.
“Yeah, it’s been a long day,” said coach Kelly Gibson, who got a little good news on the boys’ side when the doubles team of Aleksandr Petrovic and Daniel Trainor reached the individual semifinals.