By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay’s girls tennis team made it harder than it needed to be in in Thursday’s Region 2A-6 final against Bishop Verot.
But after blowing two opportunities to wrap up the title in singles, the Manta Rays swept both doubles matches to win their eighth straight regional championship and clinch another berth at next week’s state meet. Lemon Bay faces the Region 5 winner at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry in the state quarterfinals.
The No. 1 doubles team of Sarah Lown and Stephanie Krisinski defeated Marina Lombardo and Yvonne Wojtas 6-3, 6-0, while the No. 2 duo of Ashley Tormey and Chloe DiDonato had no trouble defeating Gabriella Martinez and Kaite Cathie 6-0, 6-3.
That gave the Manta Rays a 5-2 win over the Vikings, who played without their No. 4 singles player.
“I was hoping to be out of here after the singles, but hey, they fought hard. Bishop Verot is a tough school. They always are. Historically we’ve battled back and forth,” Lemon Bay coach Darrell Roach said. “They were down a girl but their subs played great. In the end, we wanted it more and got it in the doubles so that was nice to win both of them. We’re going back to state.”
Lown found some vindication in her doubles win after losing a grueling singles match to Lombardo in a tiebreaker set. The Lemon
Bay senior took the first set 6-3 before going back and forth with Lombardo in the second but falling 6-7.
Lombardo then jumped on Lown early in the tiebreaker, winning it 10-5 to take one of Bishop Verot’s victories on the day.
“Stephanie is such a good doubles partner. I can always rely on her for the come back,” Lown said. “I’d lost to that girl in singles before, so the fact that I won the first set I was really looking forward to winning so losing in such a close match was kind of a little discouraging.
“But it was definitely nice to come back and win and be a part of bringing your team to state.”
Early in the day it looked like Lemon Bay wouldn’t even need to play doubles to defeat Bishop Verot. No. 2 Tormey, No. 3 Krisinski and No. 5 Linda Conklin all won their singles matches in straight sets to put the Manta Rays up 3-0.
But as Lown was losing her tiebreaker to Lombardo, No. 4 DiDonato also was locked in a tiebreaker on another court with Cathie, who was playing up a spot from her usual No. 5 position. That tiebreaker didn’t break DiDonato’s way either as Cathie recovered from a loss in the first set to ultimately win 4-6, 6-4 (10-6).
Roach and his players weren’t fazed heading into doubles though. They were ready to avenge an earlier season loss to the Vikings, a 4-3 defeat on Bishop Verot’s clay courts that came down to No. 2 doubles.
“I felt confident we were going to win both doubles,” Roach said. “If everything was the same as the first time we played them, I felt like we’d won both doubles, whereas last time we lost at No. 2.
“But it was just a pro set and my girls were tired. They didn’t know how hard they had to fight. Today they knew.”
LEMON BAY 5, BISHOP VEROT 2
Singles: 1. Marina Lombardo (BV) d. Sarah Lown 3-6, 7-6, (10-5) ; 2. No. 2 Ashley Tormey (LB) d. Yvonne Wojtas 7-5, 6-0; 3. Stephanie Krisinski (LB) d. Gabriella Martinez 6-3, 6-4; 4. Kaite Cathie (BV) d. Chloe DiDonato 4-6, 6-4 (10-6); 5. Linda Conklin (LB) d. Janice Smith 6-3, 6-2.
Doubles: 1. Lown/Krisinski (LB) d. Lombardo/Wojtas 6-3, 6-0; 2. Tormey/DiDonato (LB) d. Martinez/Cathie 6-0, 6-3.