All-County Girls Tennis
Player of the Year: Manuela Vasconcelos (CHS, Sr.)
All-County team: Celebration: Maria Fregonezi, Paola Di Damaso. Osceola: Maria Gonzalez. Harmony: Kayleigh Carratala. St. Cloud: Brooke Singleton, Samantha Singleton. Gateway: Sabrina Rodriguez. Poinciana: Maria Rivera.
Celebration High School’s tennis teams have had plenty of success the last couple of years thanks to great depth in its lineup.
Considering high school matches are won for teams quite often in the later singles matches — lines 3 through 5 — it helps to have a steady hand playing there.
The Storm’s Manuela Vasconcelos was as steady as they came this year, particularly in the postseason when it counted most — the district and regional tournaments.
She was part of a Celebration girls team that swept through the District 4A-5 tournament, then won an epic match in the regional semifinals against Strawberry Crest that eventually clinched the win for the Storm, their first-ever regional victory.
While the rest of the players were grinding out shorter matches, Vasconcelos played Strawberry Crest’s Kim Ye … and played … and played in the No. 4 slot. Vasconcelos took the first set 6-2 and was on the verge of sailing through a straight set win, but Ye rallied to win, 7-6. A third-set tiebreaker went back-and-forth until, more than two hours into the match, Celebration’s Brazilian native took control and won, 10-7. The win eliminated the need for doubles match, as it clinched the team win, 4-1.
“At some point it became clear that if I won, we won,” she said. “All the other matches were ending and I got nervous in the second set, (Ye) was just getting better.
“At the end I just wanted to win so much, and when I did it was like a really big moment for the team and the school.”
Her regional final match against Tampa Newsome was nearly a better moment for the program, Coach Darren Holt said.
“She barely lost in her third set tie break, coming back from 9-2 down in tie break to get to 9-8, and then lost the last point to lose it 10-8,” he said. “It was an amazing fight from her.”
Vasconcelos, a senior and three-year member of the Storm program, is the Osceola News-Gazette Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
She said she switched from competing in swimming to tennis full-time around the time her family came here from the Sao Paulo area when she was in eighth grade.
She didn’t regret the decision, she said.
“The last three years, Celebration tennis has been like my second family,” she said. “We’ve always supported each other, and it’s really nice to be a part of that. The great thing is I plan to keep competing in USTA events and stay with tennis.”
Holt said her senior leadership came this year with her racquet.
“Through out the season, districts, and regional semi-finals she won some important clinch matches, fighting harder than we have ever seen from her,” he said.
Vasconcelos said she’ll be attending Valencia College in the fall and plans to study architecture.