The Doral Academy girls’ tennis team made its way to Chattanooga, Tennessee, last weekend with a goal.
The Firebirds proved last season that they could hold their own against Florida’s best, but how would they fare against some of the top high-school teams in the country?
It turns out they did just fine.
Doral swept through the competition in the Girls A Division Bracket at the DecoTurf High School Tennis Championship, winning all three of its matches on Friday and Saturday to take home the crown. After opening with a convincing 6-0 win over Ensworth (Tenn.), the Firebirds (10-0) rallied to a 6-3 semifinal win over Boca Raton St. Andrews and a 5-3 championship win over Cambridge (Ga.).
“It was our ultimate goal to win the national tournament,” Doral Academy coach Justin Puppo said. “We knew that we had a deep lineup that could match up against any team in the country and we wanted to see how that would translate on a national stage. Our players came through in some of the most pressure-packed situations.”
Look no further than how Doral won the championship match on Saturday night.
A 2-1 lead following the doubles portion of the match quickly became a 3-2 deficit after Bin Zhang had to retire midway through the first set of singles play on the No. 2 court and Adrianna Lamothe fell 6-2, 6-1 on the No. 3 court. Anna Kettlewell put the Firebirds back on track with a 6-3, 6-3 win on Court 5 and then Brenda Yoris kept the momentum in Doral’s favor with a critical, three-set win (3-6, 6-2, 10-7) on Court 4.
That set the stage for sixth-grader Lauren Kettlewell to pull off one of the biggest moments of her young career, clinching the match on Court 6 with a 6-2, 7-5 victory.
“For the small sixth-grader to win our deciding match, it was pretty, pretty special,” Puppo said. “With all the emotions that were coming, she battled and kept her composure in such a pressure-packed situation. She knew we needed her because we were down to our last couple of chances there, and she really pulled it out.”
The tournament victory adds another layer of validity for the Firebirds, who have become one of Florida’s top teams.
Doral reached the Class 3A state championship for the first time in 2017, but lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Gulf Coast.
In 2018, Doral got redemption by beating Gulf Coast in the first round and marched all the way to the Class 3A title.
Puppo’s plan this season was to make sure his team faced tough competition all season to make sure the players were ready for the postseason. In addition to the three wins at the national tournament, the Firebirds have pulled off a pair of 4-3 wins over defending Class 4A state champion Palmetto and perennial Class 1A contender Carrollton.
“We still have some tough matches upcoming,” Puppo said, “but I think this sets us up for a really good run if we can keep up the momentum.”
▪ HML 3, Hialeah 2 (21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 21-25, 15-7): Alain Martinez 9 kills, 31 assists, 10 digs; Ahmon Phillips 13 kills, 17 assists, 9 digs.
▪ Gulliver Prep 16, Ransom Everglades 9: Nick Hassan 5 goals, 1 assist; Ryan Noyes 4 goals, 1 assist; Matteo Uccelli 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 groundballs; Diego Rodriguez 16/29 faceoff wins.