With many of last season’s best players returning, it promises to be another exciting season of high school tennis in Citrus County.
The Lecanto Girls welcome back the entire squad that qualified for the Class 3A State Championships last season, while a pair of State 2A Individual Qualifiers – including singles semi-finalist d ‘State Riley Dodd – returns for the Citrus boys.
And while it’s the two teams in the region that have the goals on their backs to start the season, it’s safe to say that the other county teams won’t back down.
Panthers on the prowl
Lecanto’s women’s tennis team lost only one encounter all last season with a five-under squad, and it was a tough 4-3 decision for Viera in the first round of the state tournament. .
Leading the Panthers this season is junior Mirabelle Tahiri, Chronicle Player of the Year, district doubles champion, district runner-up in singles and Gulf Coast 8 Conference runner-up in singles and doubles.
Sophomore Nandini Karanam had a spectacular freshman season, qualifying for state doubles with Tahiri. Junior Shreya Lachireddy, second Jahanvi Kompella and senior Kashin Mathur also return.
The Panthers won the GC8, district and regional team titles last season. A new district awaits you this season, with Belleview, Columbia, Fleming Island, Gainesville, Middleburg, Ridgeview and Vanguard in opposition.
“The season is looking solid, but we are uncertain about our new district and the competitiveness of the opponents,” said Lecanto head coach Alice Christian.
County rivals Citrus and Crystal River are in the same district in 2A, which also includes Central, Dunnellon, Hernando, Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee.
The Hurricanes and Pirates had a heated encounter recently, where Citrus prevailed at home 4-3.
Citrus welcomes back college starters Kylie Grant, Eden Adera, Malena Hamilton and Mia Hamilton, with newcomer Lauren Wood in the roster.
The Hurricanes tied for second in the district last season and are looking for more.
“With so many seniors (seven of the nine members of the team), I hope to go even further than last year. I hope to progress,” Citrus head coach Lita Stanton said. “They have all earned their place and are an incredible group of girls. It’s nice to have a group that bond well as friends, but they’re also very coachable. »
Crystal River also has a veteran cast, with returning starters Zoe Gonzales, Maddie Cobb, Megan Allen and Rylee Elwell. Newcomer Erin Probst rounds out the lineup.
Seven Rivers Christian once again welcomes a returning starter, Graceann Schlisner. Top newcomers include Audra Gardner and Natalee Borozny.
District opposition for Seven Rivers Christian includes Bradford, Father Lopez, Newberry, Oak Hall, PK Yonge and Trinity Catholic.
Citrus led by one-two punch
Last season was a breakout year for Citrus Boys tennis players Dodd and Freddie Sansone.
Dodd won the district singles and doubles title with Sansone to qualify for state in both. He reached the singles semi-finals in class 2A.
The duo of Dodd and Sansone also won the Gulf Coast 8 Conference doubles title and return this season to lead a Hurricane team looking for big things. Senior AJ Nelson, who had a few key playoff wins last season, is also back.
“It’s been an exciting year. Not only do we have the three returning, but we have two newcomers who fit in really well,” Citrus head coach Tia Nelson said.
These newcomers are freshmen Landon Hensley and Caleb Blanch, who had very successful college careers.
Dodd is the county’s standout player, but coach Nelson said the junior wasn’t just focused on himself.
“I think he really wants to see his team go with him (TBA). He’s a real team player and they’ve put a lot of effort into each other. He’s a leader and he does a really good job of that,” she said. “When you have a little group like this that’s close and pushing each other, it’s pretty exciting to see how well they’ve done.”
Crystal River is looking to fight Citrus for district honors and welcome back starters Austin Edwards and Carson Edwards. Spencer Greene also returns after reaching third place in singles two seasons ago before the season was canceled due to COVID. The Pirates lost all Chronicle players Aaron Cheek and Jason Stukes until graduation.
“We’re only returning two starters, so it’s a retooling on the fly. We’ve had a lot of success in that area before,” head coach Bill Reyes said. “I tell guys that regular season wins and losses are not the gauge. It’s getting better for the districts,”
A pair of starters return for Lecanto. Nicholas Blackstock is the No. 1 singles player for the Panthers to start the season, while Austin Purinton – who won the No. 5 district singles title last season as a rookie – is the No. 2 singles player . These two also combine to form the No. 1 doubles team.
New to college for the Panthers are William Graff, Constantine Moskes, Stefan Young and Joshua Sevilla.
Seven Rivers Christian didn’t field a men’s team last season, but several seniors have decided to get into the sport this year.
The top Warriors athletes will be Mario Aguilera, Carmelo Cordero, Charlie Leonard and Alex Eden.
Warriors head coach Marco Leene said the boys’ and girls’ teams were pretty much completely new and developing their games. The teams will play home games at Bicentennial Park in Crystal River.