Prep tennis | Out-of-Door Academy girls, Saint Stephen's boys win district titles

twolfrum@bradenton.comApril 3, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- When opponents line up against Out-of-Door Academy's girls tennis team, they're aware of how strong the Thunder are in the top three positions.

But what makes ODA's chances of competing for a state championship this season could be No. 4 singles player Alana Sherman.

And on Tuesday, Sherman aided those three stellar players in front of her and enabled ODA to exact some revenge on Saint Stephen's in the girls Class 1A-District 9 tournament.

The Falcons ousted ODA last season in the region final to book a trip to the state tourney.

But ODA was without Caroline Dailey or Sherman then. Tuesday's play went the Thunder's way as they captured four of the five singles finals and both doubles finals to rack up 27 points and the district championship.

"I love trophies, and plus our team is really good and I'm really happy for us," Sherman said.

Sherman, the daughter of St. Louis Rams wide receivers coach Ray Sherman, grew up in an athletic family.

She plays volleyball as well, but tennis is her main sport.

The freshman suffered shoulder tendonitis that sidelined her last season.

"Right as I made the team, my shoulder was hurting that day," Sherman said. "They said I couldn't play for a few days. Then I went to go check it out, and I had tendonitis."

Sherman defeated Saint Stephen's Danning Feng 6-2, 6-2 to win the No. 4 singles title and teamed with Ross to capture the No. 2 doubles crown 6-0, 7-5 over the Falcons team of Liyin Xu and Hailey Nicklin.

The Falcons, though, aren't finished with their season. They grabbed the district's runner-up spot with 21 points and are heading to the regional semifinals against undetermined opponents on April 9.

Dailey, who missed last season to concentrate on junior tournaments, rolled to a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the No. 1 singles final.

Then she partnered with M'balia Bangoura for a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Saint Stephen's Jennifer Sundstrom and Lidia Kurganova.

Both of those victories secured the ODA players berths in the individual state tournament, no matter what happens to the team at next week's regional events.

Meanwhile, the Saint Stephen's boys rolled to a district championship with 26 points in the team standings.

Bernardo Sanson won at No. 1 singles and teamed with William DeQuant for the No. 1 doubles title.

"It's a big win for him to get to go to state," Falcons head coach James Flanigan said of DeQuant. "I'm psyched for him, because that was his goal. He said at the beginning of the season, 'That's where I want to be. That's where I want to be. I want to be playing state.'"

The Falcons won titles in four of the five singles finals and both doubles finals.

Saint Stephen's is excited to send both the boys and girls team to regions.

"It says a lot about our players and the ability level of everybody that goes to this school and their dedication to the team," Flanigan said. "I mean, it's absolutely awesome that we can have such strong teams on both ends. It legitimizes the program, and it's a program with a ton of history that I don't know if a lot people know. ... Jim Courier played there; (Andre) Agassi was briefly at Saint Stephen's. ... I like that the kids take pride in the school and that come out and play for it."

St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep edged tournament host ODA for second place. Shorecrest racked up 18 points, while the Thunder finished with 15.

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