By Kyle LoJacono
The Wiregrass Ranch boys tennis team has reached the regional tournament the last four years and several key additions helped the 2011 squad reach states for the first time.
The Bulls defeated Mainland 4-2, giving them the regional championship and sending them to the Class 3A finals.
“We’re going there with the outlook of we want to win it,” said Wiregrass Ranch coach Dave Wilson. “We’re not just going for the ride.”
The decisive point was earned when the Bulls’ No. 1 doubles team of Spencer Ong and Courage Okungbowa won 6-2, 6-3. It was some order of revenge, as it was Mainland who knocked out Wiregrass Ranch 4-3 in last year’s regional finals.
“It feels really good,” said Okungbowa, who is undefeated in singles play this year. “I’m really looking forward to states.”
The regional championship is the third for Wiregrass Ranch this year, following the boys and girls cross country teams.
“We get to put the numbers on the banner in the gym too,” Wilson said. “It’ll say regional champions 2011.”
Ong was Wiregrass Ranch’s No. 1 singles player last year, but Okungbowa moved to the area from Virginia and took over that spot. Ong now competes at No. 2 and has not minded the rearranging of squad’s rankings.
“It’s been awesome,” Ong said. “There was a lot more pressure on me last year as No. 1. It’s been a good combination in doubles too. I like to come to the net and he likes to stay on the baseline.”
Okungbowa said he enjoys playing tennis in Florida more because the competition level is higher than in Virginia. He added there has been no pressure taking over as the Bulls top player.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Okungbowa said. “The one I was most nervous about was against Land O’ Lakes’ No. 1 (Colin Roller), but I managed to win that as well.”
Okungbowa is one of four new players for the Bulls. Their No. 3 player Eric Busch moved from Texas, No. 4 player Jaime Feliciano came from Puerto Rico and No. 6 player Koustubh Ramesh lived in Naples last year. That, plus returners from the 2010 squad, had Wilson confident about the team’s chances entering this season.
“We have had everyone back from last year,” Wilson said. “We reached the regional finals last year, so we had high expectations. People were complaining about recruiting, but I’m not going to Virginia, Texas and Puerto Rico to get players. The fact that they moved to this area is a stroke of luck. All of a sudden, guys who were district champions for us last year aren’t in the top five.”
In the regional finals the Bulls took the No. 1, 4 and 5 singles points in straight-set matches in less than one hour, but Mainland fought back to claim the No. 2 and 3 points to force doubles play. Ong and Okungbowa started their match first.
“There wasn’t too much pressure on us,” Ong said. “We were up 3-2 and we have a lot of confidence in our two doubles teams.”
The 3A state meet began on April 18 at Altamonte Springs. The championship match is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20.