The Celebration tennis program, in a combined effort of the boys and girls programs, made school history Tuesday by winning regional round matches for the first time in school history.
The boys team needed an effort from the doubles squad of Alex Cruz and Angel Partidas as night fell to preserve a 4-3 win over Tampa Newsome. The girls team clinched the home win prior to doubles play, but needed to grind out a pair of third set tiebreaker singles wins to get there in 4-1 fashion over Strawberry Crest.
Tuesday’s wins earned the teams spots in today's (Thursday) regional finals, which begin at 2:30 p.m. Wins for the boys over Wiregrass Ranch and for the girls over Newsome would send the Storm to the Class 4A state tournament starting Monday at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs. It would be the first appearance by an Osceola County team at state in over a decade.
“It was a real coming-of-age day for our program, especially on the boys side,” said CHS Coach Darren Holt.
The boys team was without the best services of No. 1 player Alex Moutran, who had been sick all week. He gave it a go in his singles match and but had to retire, but the rest of the team picked up the slack. No. 2 seed Emilio Perez (6-2, 6-0), No. 3 Partidas (6-3, 6-2) and No. 5 Carlos DeGouveia (6-3, 6-4) picked up singles wins.
Celebration needed just one doubles win to advance in the playoffs, and with Moutran out DeGouveia jumped in with Perez and fought admirably against the hard-hitting 1-2 Newsome combination. It came down to Cruz and Partidas, the only players who didn’t win their District 4A-5 brackets, to clinch the victory, although it wasn’t an easy match clinch. After cruising to a 6-1 first-set win and taking a 5-0 lead in the second, Newsome rallied before the Storm duo slammed the door shut with a 6-4 win.
The girls team score doesn’t really reflect the drama the players needed to score their singles wins. While No. 1 Paola DiDamaso, who like Moutran has already secured a spot in the 4A state singles draw, eased to a 6-2, 6-2 win over her Strawberry Crest counterpart, the rest of the lineup needed tough sets or tiebreakers to win. Most impressive was No. 3 Beatriz Coelho, who dropped her first set — or more like it fell on her — but she rallied in the best way to take the match, 0-6, 6-4, 10-7.
No. 4 Manuela Vasconcelos won, 6-2, 6-7, 10-7, and No. 5 Daniela Torres won 7-5, 6-1.