By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
The Lemon Bay High School girls tennis team advanced to the Class 2A state tournament in each of the previous six seasons, but was never able to finish better than fifth place in the eight-team field.
The Manta Rays got over that hump Monday with a 4-2 victory against Robinson in the quarterfinals, and are guaranteed at least a fourth-place finish for the best result in school history in the new team-vs.-team format.
“We were really matched up well with Robinson,” Lemon Bay coach Darrell Roach said. “They matched up head-to-head with us about as close as you can get.”
The day began with doubles play, which Lemon Bay took advantage of to carry a 2-0 lead into the singles portion of the match. Both of the doubles matches went to the pro-set tiebreaker after the first two sets were split.
Sarah Lown and Ashley Tormey dropped the first set 7-5 against Ashley Osiason and Eliott Peterson at No. 1. The two Manta Rays battled back in the next set to win 6-1 before claiming the match 10-7 in the tiebreaker.
“Thank goodness we won them both, because we needed them,” Roach said. “We came out pretty nervous. It’s the state finals. We were really struggling on serves early on.”
Stephanie Krisinski and Shannen Smith took care of business in their win over Bianca Dyer and Elizabeth Rice at No. 2 doubles. Smith and Krisinski won the first set 6-3, before falling 4-6 in set two. They earned the victory on a 13-11 win in the tiebreaker after opening a 9-5 lead.
Lown and Smith each earned victories in their singles matches to clinch the first-round win for the Manta Rays.
“Sarah’s match was the key,” Roach said. “She lost that first set, then came back and stayed aggressive. She was on a roll. She won the last five or six games. That was the one to clinch it for us.”
Lemon Bay will face Gulliver Prep in the semifinals at 8 a.m. todau. A win would send the Mantas to the 1 p.m. championship.
LEMON BAY 4, ROBINSON 2
Class 2A State Tournament
Singles: Lown d. Peterson 3-6, 6-2, (10-2); Dyer d. Krisinski 6-1, 3-6, (10-7); Smith d. Rice 6-1, 6-1; Catherine Liu (R) d. Danielle Tormey 6-3, 6-1; A. Tormey vs. Osiason, match abandoned in progress when fourth team point was reached in another singles match.
Doubles: Sarah Lown/Ashley Tormey (LB) d. Elliot Peterson/Ashley Osiason 5-7, 6-1, (10-7); Stephanie Krisinski/Shannen Smith (LB) d. Bianca Dyer/Elizabeth Rice 6-3, 4-6, (13-11).