By Eugenio Torrens
Senior Colin Roller continued his winning ways in leading the Land O’ Lakes boys tennis team past Ocala Forest 4-3 at home in the Class 3A regional semifinals on April 10.
Roller breezed through his No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-0 for his team’s first point and clinched the victory with teammate David Dollbaum at No. 1 doubles, played as a pro set, 8-1.
The Gators (15-3) have become accustomed to the 6-foot-4 East Carolina University signee getting them at least two points.
“I know that he’s going to get us two points,” said Land O’ Lakes coach Jasalyn Gerazounis.
Despite his seemingly easy win, Roller said his singles opponent, Bradley Sanders, brought out the best in him.
“I play better against guys like him who are pretty good; pretty close to my level,” Roller said.
The Gators were also boosted by wins from freshman Dollbaum and sophomore Tyler Sanders at Nos. 2 and 4 to build a 3-1 lead with one singles and two doubles matches remaining.
“I actually didn’t play that well today,” Dollbaum said. “My serve actually was not that bad today. Overall, I played OK. Not great, not the worst.”
Dollbaum won the first set 6-1, but the second was more taxing. It took 7-5 to end the match.
By the time the Roller/Dollbaum pairing was due on the court there was little doubt about Land O’ Lakes’ chance at winning. The top doubles pairing was punctuated by Roller’s between-the-legs shot to set up match point.
The Gators were unable to get to a second state tournament as a team, falling 4-1 at home to Gainesville (17-2). The lone point came from Roller, who bested Cole Fiegel 6-3, 7-5.
The Hurricanes’ top player was up a break in both sets, including a 5-4 advantage in the second. Roller won the final three games including taking the match’s last eight points.
“He broke me to start the match, and from there I knew it was going to be tough,” Roller said. “I think it was one of the best matches I’ve played in high school.”
The win improves Roller’s record to 58-1 in the regular season, districts and regionals. Seconds after the match, Roller realized he would never play on Land O’ Lakes’ courts again.
“The last four years have been amazing,” Roller said. “It’s just hitting me now that this is the last time I’ll play here. It’s finally over. I can’t stop smiling remembering all the hours I’ve spent out here.”
The playoff berth is the Gators’ fourth in as many years, the last two coming with Gerazounis at the helm.
“I remember last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and we became No. 2 in the district season,” Gerazounis said. “This year I had three returning players, and we became district champs, won first round of regionals and lost to a great team. We couldn’t be more excited and happy for them.”
While Roller won’t be back, the rest of the players are freshmen or sophomores. The youth encourages Gerazounis about the program’s future.
“It’s very exciting, I’m sure, for everyone involved to come out and start playing tennis and do so well, especially when most of them play other sports,” Gerazounis said. “I don’t think they’re going to have the mentality we lose Colin, we lose it all.”
Roller will wear Land O’ Lakes gear in competition one more time at the 3A state tournament at Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs April 17 to 20. He will play in the singles and double with Dollbaum.
“I’m looking forward to taking Colin and David to state,” Gerazounis said. “I think they can do really well. They’re a nice doubles team because they’re both very good players.”
–Sports Editor Kyle LoJacono contributed to this report
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