PUNTA GORDA — Lakewood Ranch High sophomores Arnav and Arsav Mohanty have an uncanny way of knowing exactly what the other one is thinking well before they even step out onto the court.
The two brothers don’t typically play together during the season, but come tournament time, the two are one of the area’s most dynamic duos.
“I love playing with him,” Arsav Mohanty said. “We do very well together. Our communication is really good. We know what the other guy does well, how to calm each other down; and we can tell each other what to do.”
Last season, the two split up in the district tennis tournament to help ensure the Mustangs scored enough points to move on. But this year, the brothers were once again able to take the court together.
And on April 7, their hard work and intuition paid off when the two won the No. 1 doubles final with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Venice’s Stephen Felman and James Berkowitz at the Class 3A-District 10 tournament at Charlotte High, helping propel Lakewood to its second-consecutive district title.
The Mustangs scored 19 points, edging past Venice (15 points) and earning a spot in the regional semifinals April 12.
“I expect us to play strong at regionals, and hopefully, with some good play, we can advance to states,” coach Ed Bongart said. “If we make it to states, I expect us to compete for the championship. Last year’s team has set a lofty bar; and if we go, we are going there to try and win.”
With their doubles victory, the Mohantys, who were playing doubles together for the first time all season, also earned an automatic berth in the Class 3A state finals April 18-20 in Altamonte Springs.
The Mohantys also captured a pair of individual district titles with Arsav Mohanty defeating Braden River’s Antony Somakov 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles and earning a spot in the state finals; and Arnav Mohanty defeating Venice’s Michael Leonard 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.
“My first match was a little slow, but I picked it up, and I played pretty well,” Arsav Mohanty said. “It’s nice. We went to states last year, and it was fun, so I’m hoping the team goes again this year.”
Lakewood’s Christian Strong and Drew Christianson also captured individual district titles at No. 4 and No. 5 singles, respectively.
Across the court, the Lakewood and Braden River girls tennis teams spent the district tournament in a battle for second place with the No. 1 doubles final serving as the determinant.
After defeating top-seeded Braden River’s Marie Babayan and Annalise Cook, Lakewood’s Cari Berry and Samantha Aiezza needed a victory in the final to claim the runner-up spot in the district. If the two lost, the Lady Mustangs would have ended in a tie with the Lady Pirates, forcing a tiebreaking match.
But Berry and Aiezza did what they needed to do, defeating Venice’s Victoria Traynor and Ashley Keith 6-1, 6-3 and giving Lakewood a second-place finish. The Lady Mustangs finished behind Venice (18 points) with 10 points. Braden River was third with 9 points.
Joining Berry and Aiezza in the state finals will be Babayan who defeated Traynor 3-2 who quit due to illness in No. 1 singles. Babayan will be making her first state finals appearance after falling to Lakewood’s Katherine Pyne in last year’s district final.
“It means a lot,” Babayan said. “It’s always better to come in first than second. I’m just looking forward to playing the other districts and hopefully winning.”
Aiezza also earned an individual district title at No. 2 singles with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Venice’s Michaela Mighemi.
“I am extremely proud of the girls team and how they have grown this year,” Bongart said. “They played a very tough schedule this year and ended with a record of 4-9. I truly believe that our tough schedule and team growth culminated in a great performance at districts where (Samantha) Aiezza and Cari Berry not only beat a Braden River team that they lost to earlier in the year, but they also beat a strong Venice team in the final to give us a one point victory over Braden River for second.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected]
Dailey leads ODA to runner-up finish
The Out-of-Door Academy sophomore Caroline Dailey captured her third-consecutive No. 1 singles title in the Class 1A-District 10 tournament April 5-6.
With the win, Dailey earned an automatic berth in the state finals, where she will vie for her third straight state championship.
Dailey also helped propel the Lady Thunder to a second-place finish behind district champion St. Stephen’s. St. Stephen’s finished with 24 points, ODA with 19.
Callan Malone also captured an individual district title for ODA at No. 5, and Michelle van Dalen finished second at No. 4. Dailey and Liz McGayhey also finished as district runners-up in No. 1 doubles.
ODA and St. Stephen’s both advanced to the regional tournament April 12 to face the District 9 champion and runner-up in the regional semifinals. The winners of the two matches will play today in the regional finals.