Lemon Bay has been to the girls state tennis tournament the past seven years.
If Tuesday’s opening match is an indication of things to come, the streak is likely to hit eight.
The Manta Rays, bolstered by a trio of veterans at the top of the lineup, blanked Booker 7-0 to begin their quest for district and region championships as well as that state visit. Lemon Bay finished in the top four of last year’s event, the program’s best showing ever.
“It’s always better to be 1-0 than 0-1,” said veteran coach Darrell Roach, who’s in his ?? year leading the program. “It was a good start.”
Lemon Bay players dropped only one game in the entire match using the pro-set format. That was returning top singles players Sara Lown, who dispatched Nikki Marceus 8-1. Every other match ended 8-0.
Lown is followed by fellow seniors Stephanie Krisinski and Ashley Tomey at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, to give Lemon Bay a formidable top of the lineup. Krisinski and Tomey have swapped positions since last year.
“They’re both really, really close,” Roach said of his second and third players “They’re gonna have more challenges between them.”
After that, the Manta Rays are in a youth movement following the graduation of Shannon Smith and Danielle Tormey. Those two gave the team a wealth of quality experience at the Nos. 4-5 positions not normally found on most teams.
“Big losses,” Roach said. “They were really very experienced players and really strong for those places. They only dropped a match or two each.”
Replacing them this year are junior Chloe DiDonato and freshman Linda Conklin. DiDonato was Lemon Bay’s sixth player in 2016.
“Chloe is a steady player, and improving, but not the same level as Shannon and Danielle,” the coach said. “Linda has only been playing a year.”
The Mantas have a roster of 10 players. All those in the bottom half of the unit “have a year or less of tennis,” the coach said.
Roach is approaching the season with cautious optimism. Keeping his top three players in the lineup every match will be a key, particularly in the postseason.
“Our big push is to keep those top three healthy and have some improvement in the others,” he said. “If we lost any of the top three for a while, it could be a long season. You have to get four wins for a match. We think we can get 1-2-3 and a doubles most times. If something else happens and we have to get something at 4-5 it’ll be a lot tougher.
“If we stay healthy, I feel good about the district. The region could be tougher.”
And that streak of state tournament trips?
“It’s what we’re hoping, but it’s going to be hard,” Roach said.
PORT CHARLOTTE — Brittany King scored five goals Tuesday night to power Port Charlotte’s girls lacrosse team to a 16-1 rout of Cape Coral.
Backing King were Katie Lockhart and Cassidy Francis with three goal each. Hanna Bruglio and Tina Valone each talled a pair with Leah Hopper getting the last. Jaden Thomas scored to enable the visitors to escape the shutout.