TITUSVILLE – For Wally Norwich and the Merritt Island boys, it was what they hope was just another step toward a new tradition. For Gail Larson and the Rockledge girls, it was entirely new, perphaps even tough to grasp.
Both won district tennis titles on Wednesday at the Singleton Avenue Tennis Complex. It was the second in a row for a Mustangs program that had never been the state tournament as a group before last season. Both teams earned regional playoff spots and will compete on their home courts on Tuesday against opponents to be determined.
When Larson took over the Rockledge girls program four years ago, she couldn’t have imagined a season in which the team knocked off dominant Cocoa Beach, finished the rest of the regular season unbeaten and claimed its first district championship.
“We’ve had so many firsts. Nobody lost a match until today,” Larson said. “It’s kind of surreal. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”
One of the keys to the emergence of the program was the enrollment of Katie Sidor three years ago. Now a junior, she repeated as No. 1 singles champion. With three new teammates playing the second through fourth spots, on Wednesday she shared what was a new team experience.
“Today was great. All our girls played great,” Sidor said. “We got some new freshmen on our team this year, and the girls that were on our team last year stepped up their game.”
One of those incoming ninth-graders was sister Emily Sidor, who shared the win at No. 1 doubles with two-time FLORIDA TODAY Player of the Year Katie. The Sidors swept the semifinals and finals on Wednesday, 6-0, 6-0.
Emily Sidor also won at No. 2 singles, as did Rockledge players Katelyn Ruether at No. 3 and Colleen Clay at No. 4. Cocoa Beach’s Alexandra Andrews took the fifth bracket.
Mustangs No. 1 Albert Go already had the experience of leading his team to a state tournament, having been as a group last season. He and No. 2 singles winner Noah Rawls teamed to win the top doubles match as well. No. 3 Seth Scalera took a third singles title for the school.
Among other boys singles winners was West Shore’s Evan Cooper at No. 4, whose team was the district runner-up and will also advance to regional play. Jake Geyer of Titusville won at No. 5.
Merritt Island placed seventh in 2A last season. Though the roster is different, Go expressed hope his team can return to the finals.
“We lost two solid guys,” he said. “I don’t think we’re as strong, but our four and five still fight hard. We just have to back each other up.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.