Chris Bernhardt Jr.: Correspondent
ZEPHYRHILLS — Two Citrus girls are headed to states, while both Crystal River teams are going to regionals. Yet not everything was settled Wednesday in the second day of the Class 2A, District 7 Tournament.
Both the Nature Coast and Crystal River girls finished with 13 points, and while they’ll each participate in regional semifinals next Tuesday there’s still a question of which one will be district champion. That will be decided by a tiebreaker match today, at Bicentennial Park starting at 3:30 p.m.
What is assured is that Citrus seniors Natalie Dodd and Chase Davis have qualified for the FHSAA Finals in two weeks. Dodd captured a district title at No. 1 singles, then teamed with Davis to do the same at No. 1 doubles.
“It feels really great,” Dodd said. “I couldn’t do it without the support of my team and coach and family, and definitely God. He gives me strength in every match.
“It’s my senior year. So I’m really excited that I was able to do this and have the opportunity to go. It’s such a blessing.”
In the two-day tournament that took place at both Zephyrhills High and nearby Zephyr Park, Dodd was chosen as top seed and had a first-round bye. She won a semifinal on Tuesday, knocking off Emily Gifford from Central, 6-1, 3-6, 10-8.
On Wednesday morning, she faced Crystal River’s Maddie Lewis in the final, taking a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
Dodd and Davis also received a bye in doubles and didn’t take the court together until Wednesday, when they defeated Lewis and Shannon Hancock, 6-0, 6-1. They beat Hope Johnson and Paige Johnson from Zephyrhills for the district title, 6-4, 6-3.
“Chase Davis is such an amazing doubles partner. I could not ask for a better one,” Dodd said. “When I’m down, she always has my back, she knows what to say to bring me back up. We’re best friends off the court and on the court we feed off each other so much.”
“It’s such a blessing. Natalie and I have played together since middle school. In seventh grade we became doubles partners,” Davis said. “I’m blessed that God gave me an amazing person to work with. Without her and without Him, I couldn’t do it.”
Overall, the Hurricanes totaled 11 points to finish a close third in the team standings.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls even if we had won,” Citrus girls coach Katie Hughes said. “They executed extremely well. They fought for every point and with all their heart.”
Crystal River had one individual champion in a somewhat unexpected spot, as Brazilian exchange student Bibi Marquezi downed Nature Coast’s Beatrice Roseus in the No. 5 singles final, 6-4, 7-5.
The Pirates dropped three other finals to the Sharks, with Tess Redrick falling to Sierra Remondelli at No. 3, 6-0, 6-0, and Clare Redrick losing to Mackenzie Vraspir at No. 4, 6-1, 6-1. Those same four faced in the No. 2 doubles finale, won by Nature Coast, 6-0, 6-1.
“The girls have been working hard,” Crystal River girls coach Cindy Reynolds said. “We saw a lot of good tennis from all the teams. Everyone stepped up their games, which makes it exciting.
“No one gave up, no one stopped playing. Everyone went to the last point, whether they won or lost. They kept battling and that’s what made the difference.”
The boys side is a done deal, with Nature Coast tallying 16 and Crystal River 13 in a repeat of last year’s finish for the top two spots. Like the girls, the district champ and runner-up advance to Tuesday’s regional first round.
“Obviously, we were hoping for a district title this year,” Crystal River boys coach Bill Reyes said. “We felt Nature Coast was beatable. We beat them during the regular season, but they didn’t play with a full lineup. They had their full lineup and all their guys got to the finals. Their guys did their jobs. We came up short a couple of times and that was it.”
Despite taking second, the Pirates actually beat the Sharks in three out of four finals. Junior Spencer Parker won over Alec Priede at No. 3, 6-1, 5-7, 11-9.
“I felt like I was not losing this year,” Parker said. “I felt I had enough to do what needed to get done and I got it done.”
The sophomore Stukes earned a repeat district crown at No. 4, besting Carter McNamara, 7-5, 6-2.
“Today was a tough match. It was definitely hot outside. The heat definitely played a part in the first set,” Stukes said. “I had a first-round bye, so I sat and watched, looked at my opponents to see how to play them. Other than that, I knew what I had to do. I hit my spots well, didn’t make too many mistakes, let them make mistakes and that worked.”
Parker and Stukes also collected a victory in the No. 2 doubles final versus the Sharks’ Mark Cabahug and Braydon Hotchkiss, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7. Andrew Allen made the No. 2 singles final for the Pirates, losing to Nature Coast’s Roger Sniffen, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 10-5.
Citrus won two first-round singles contests, Brandon Ekeli at No. 4 and Ryan Reese at No. 5.
“We had some strong points of the season,” Citrus boys coach Chad Myers said. “Last season we were losing 1-6, 2-5, 0-7. This year we had two wins against Central and also three 3-4 losses. It’s turning the corner to where we’re getting pretty good and hopefully next year is the year where we come out and win more matches.”