By Kyle LoJacono
The Land O’ Lakes and Zephyrhills girls tennis players left the Class 2A-District 6 tournament on April 7 thinking they would have a playoff the next day to decide the district runner-up.
Everything changed later that night with an email from Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) senior director of athletics Gary Pigott. It stated a mistake was made in the interpretation of how points were awarded, making Land O’ Lakes the runner-up by one point.
“I got the email around 6:30 (p.m.) and I let the team know the next day,” said Land O’ Lakes coach Samantha Taylor. “We all knew there was some confusion about the scoring. We were told points were being scored one way, then another and then another.”
The problem arose because Fivay High opened and joined 2A-6, giving it nine teams and an awkward bracket. The player or doubles team with the best and second best record were seeded No. 1 or 2, with a blind draw for the Nos. 3-9 spots. The format forces No. 8 and 9 to play against each other before the winner faced the No.1 seed.
Originally that No. 8/9 game was considered a match for a point to the winning team, but a few coaches questioned why what appeared to be a play-in contest was for a tally. Zephyrhills coach and tournament director Lorraine Hinkle relented and it was decided the No. 8/9 winner would not earn a point.
Pigott instead ruled on April 6 the winner would indeed get a team point like another match as Hinkle originally thought. Pigott then ruled on April 7 the No.8/9 winner would still get a point, but if the No.1 seed then won, she would earn two points for her team. The logic being the No.8/9 winner could potentially earn four points for her team if she wins the individual or doubles championship.
“They said it isn’t fair for the No. 1 to be penalized for being the higher seed,” Hinkle said.
Pasco won the district and Pigott’s ruling during the last day of the event gave both the Gators and Bulldogs 10 points. If two teams finish tied, they play against each other in a playoff team match.
Taylor and Hinkle agreed to play at Land O’ Lakes High on April 8 at 3:30 p.m. Hinkle even secured a van to take the team and equipment to the Gators courts and Bulldogs No. 1 player Sarah Vande Berg cancelled playing in a competitive tournament in Fort Myers to play with her high school team.
However, Pigott reverted to the original scoring system, with one point being given for every win, including the No. 8/9 match up. The change gave Land O’ Lakes 10 points and Zephyrhills nine. The irony is the final ruling was how Hinkle originally explained the rule.
“I’m fine with the ruling,” Hinkle said. “Land O’ Lakes deserves to advance. Now I’ll just focus on getting Sarah and Sydney ready for states.”
Vande Berg qualified for states individually and as a doubles team with Sydney Owens.
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