By Kyle LoJacono
The 2011 Pasco girls tennis team brought home the first district championship since 1994, but its season came to a close with a 4-1 loss to Nature Coast April 12.
“This team is one that shares a family attitude,” said Pirates coach Don Charlick. “There’s a family atmosphere. It’s all for one, one for all. These girls will all drive each other through the offseason. I told them there’s no lock on (No.) 1, no lock on (No. 2) and no lock on (No.) 3. They’re going to battle it out again next year just like they did this year. That’s going to drive them to be more competitive.”
The Pirates No. 1 player Amanda Dempsey and No. 2 Mady Johnson lost their matches 6-0, 6-1 and 6-4, 6-2 respectively, a quick hole the Dade City team could not get out of.
Nature Coast also defeated Pasco No. 5 Sarah McCord 6-3, 6-4, forcing the Pirates to win the remaining singles matches to have any hope of coming back. Pirates No. 4 Norah Taylor took the first set, but could not close the deal, losing 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
The lone win for Pasco came from No. 3 player Rebecca Pelham, who had to come back from down a set to win the contest. The match sat at 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) when Nature Coast took the No. 4 match. Her competition forfeited the remaining set after hearing her team had already took the team match.
Pelham’s second set lasted more than 90 minutes. The winning point in the tiebreaker came off an error by her opponent, which hit the net.
“My coach has always told me to always fight back no matter what the game, set or match is at,” said junior Rebecca Pelham. “I was just thinking about everything he tells me and I was floored when I saw her shot hit the net. I didn’t know what to think because it was such a long set.”
Pelham also won the No. 3 district championship a week before. She had to fight back from down a set in that match as well.
“When I’m down it makes we want to push for the match that much more,” Pelham said. “I want to fight even harder.”
The Pirates missed advancing to regionals by one point in districts last season. That, plus the long district title drought made Pasco less than a favorite to have the season it did.
“I’ve always rooted for the underdogs and we liked people not picking us all year,” Charlick said. “I think we took everybody by surprised. I don’t think we were picked in any polls to win districts.”
It did not end the way the Pirates wanted, but it is a season the players and coaches will always remember.
“It’s been a really sweet season,” Charlick said. “Three of my players I’ve had on the team the last three years, and the other two are completely new. We lost two seniors last year and gained two new starters. The combination helped us go undefeated in the district in match play.”
Dempsey, Johnson and Pelham are juniors, while Johnson and McCord are a freshman and sophomore respectively. All will likely return in 2012.
“Next year I can only see us being stronger,” Charlick said.