Not one of the six seniors from the Fort Myers girls tennis team hung their heads as they took down the posters of themselves that have been hanging on their home court.
During a season where not much was expected of the squad after losing its top two players to graduation, the Green Wave beat every team put in front of them except one.
Barron Collier knocked off Fort Myers for the second time this season 4-1 Tuesday in the Region 3A-3 semifinals.
The Cougars will face rival Gulf Coast on Thursday seeking a seventh straight berth at state. Amanda Ruci, Katie Marham, Ivy Morrison and Paloma Oddone scored victories against Fort Myers, which came together with two freshmen at the top of the lineup to win its sixth straight district title two weeks ago.
“They were better than us today,” said Riis, whose team settled for a 3-3 tie earlier in the season at home before losing to Barron Collier on the road during the regular season. “They’re a tough team and they’re always going to be competitive. But we’ll be back.”
Barron Collier failed to win a seventh consecutive district title this season, but coach Nancy Geiman said the experience the team gained last year at state prepared it for Tuesday.
“It’s just something where they’ve been there, done that,” Geiman said. “They understand the pressure, they understand what the expectations are. They just had a little bit more than the Fort Myers team. That Fort Myers team is a great team. This win is for real.”
Oddone defeated Mary Beth Briers at No. 5 singles 6-2, 6-2 while Morrison dispatched Reina Plancher 6-2, 6-2 at No. 4 singles.
After Marham scored a hard-fought tie-breaker win over Daniella Andrade at No. 2 singles, it was up to Ruci to take down nemesis Shani Idlette to ensure the Cougars wouldn’t have to play doubles.
Ruci lost to Idlette 6-1, 6-0 the last time they played and Idlette led 6-2, 3-2 in the previous meeting before retiring due to cramping.
They split the first two sets, both coming by 7-5 scores. Ruci took six of the first seven points in the tiebreaker en route to a dominant 10-2 win.
“I’ve been in that position a lot of times. You can’t wait for your opponent to lose it. You have to go out and win it,” Ruci said. “If you stay passive you’re going to lose. You have to stay offensive and actually go for it.”
Riis said Idlette would only get better with time.
“I think it was a mental issue. She’s not used to being down,” Riis said of Idlette. “It’s tough when you’re down and you haven’t been.”
Idlette’s season, however, isn’t finished. In addition to the District 3A-11 No. 1 singles champion competing at state in the singles draw, she’ll play alongside fellow freshman Marina Lombardo, who beat Tori Franklin at No. 2 singles, in the doubles tournament.