Prep tennis | District tournament previews

jdill@bradenton.comMarch 31, 2014 

MANATEE -- The prep spring season begins to wind down next week as tennis enters district tournament action. There are plenty of local athletes and teams with chances to make it to the state tournament, but that isn't for a few weeks.

The top two teams progress to the region tournament the following week, while the No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles champions automatically qualify for the state meet should their teams not qualify.

So here's how the district slate breaks down:

Class 4A-District 8

• When: 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at 75th Street Courts in Bradenton.

• Area teams: Manatee.

• Outlook: The Hurricanes are the lone local entrant, and host the event in West Bradenton. While Manatee's boys team sports a winning team record this year, those victories have come against smaller schools from the area. In a meeting against Riverview earlier this season, the Rams pounded the Canes 7-0.

Riverview is a district opponent for Manatee, and the Rams are the favorites to get through with a district championship trophy in tow.

On the girls side, Manatee also has a favorable record but fell to Riverview 7-0 in an early March match. The expectation is more of the same from the Rams, a historically strong tennis program in both divisions.

Class 3A-District 10

• When: 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Treasure Bay Tennis Club (Treasure Island).

• Area teams: Braden River, Lakewood Ranch and Palmetto.

• Outlook: The Mustangs' girls team should progress in this district, and Ranch's No. 1 singles player, Ashley Bongart, should make a good run toward an individual state championship. That work begins to take shape Tuesday in Pinellas County.

Braden River and Palmetto round out local schools vying with Clearwater, St. Petersburg Dixie Hollins, Largo, St. Petersburg Northeast, Seminole Osceola, Sarasota and Venice.

The biggest threat to a potential district title for Ranch is Venice. The Indians annually possess a strong girls program from top to bottom, and this year's lot is no different. Venice crushed Fort Myers Bishop Verot 7-0 last week to improve to 10-2.

But because the top two teams advance to the region tournament, the Mustangs should make it through.

On the boys side, it's a free-for-all with the Pirates, Mustangs and Tigers representing area teams competing against the Pinellas County programs.

Class 2A-District 10

• When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at State College of Florida.

• Area teams: Bayshore and Southeast.

• Outlook: The host Bruins have a couple victories over Southeast already this season on the girls side. But like the Seminoles, Bayshore hasn't fared well against other programs in the area. However, that shouldn't matter as other entrants at the district tourney include St. Petersburg Lakewood and Gulfport Boca Ciega. Lakewood registered its lone victory this season over Boca Ciega.

The boys tournament should go Booker's way as the Tornadoes have defeated Southeast (twice) and Bayshore (once) en route a strong regular season.

Class 1A-District 9

• When: 9 a.m. Monday at Longwood Run (boys) and Out-of-Door Academy (girls); 9 a.m. Tuesday at ODA (boys and girls).

• Area teams: BCS, Cardinal Mooney, ODA and Saint Stephen's.

• Outlook: Saint Stephen's should contend for district championships in the boys and girls divisions. On the boys side, the Falcons returned Zach Bessette and Brian Berdusco off last spring's district and region title team.

Berdusco is a freshman, but claimed the No. 5 singles state title at Class 1A as an eighth-grader.

And while Bessette is the elder statesman of the group as a junior, the Falcons are flourishing this spring.

It should add up to a potential memorable couple of days at the district meet.

But standing in the Falcons' way is St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep, which challenged Saint Stephen's in last season's region final.

The Falcons also have a heavy-hitting girls team that is expected to go toe-to-toe with Out-of-Door Academy.

The Thunder have their own bevy of strong players like Maria Ross and M'Balia Bangoura. But the Falcons have only lost twice this season, both coming against perennial area powers (Venice and Riverview). It should make for an entertaining duel.

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