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East County Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Lakewood volleys for perfection

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — In two years, sophomore Arnav Mohanty has never lost a high school singles match.

He’s won 29 consecutive matches; and although he’s been consistent, dominant and virtually unstoppable on the court, Lakewood Ranch’s No. 2 singles player isn’t focused on individual wins and losses.

“I just play my game,” Mohanty said. “I don’t think about not losing.”

Instead, Mohanty focuses on helping out his team — whether it’s in singles or doubles. But Mohanty isn’t the only member of Lakewood’s boys tennis team to have seen success over the past two years.

As a whole, the team is riding a 29-match winning streak. Mohanty’s twin brother, Arsav, has only lost two or three matches, and No. 5 singles player Drew Christianson has only lost a handful of matches.

Last season, the Mustangs finished the season a perfect 18-0. Lakewood got off to a fast start; and after defeating Sarasota midway through the season, Lakewood coach Ed Bongart got the impression the Mustangs were capable of finishing the season undefeated.

“Ultimately, our goal was to win districts and have an opportunity to get to states,” Bongart said. “I was very happy with the team though. They blew me away with their teamwork.”

The Mustangs won their first regional match before falling to Barron Collier in the regional finals. Or so they thought. The Mustangs later learned that Barron Collier’s No. 1 singles player, who also played No. 1 doubles, was ineligible for the tournament — nullifying the match entirely.

“Our team wasn’t upset about the whole situation,” Mohanty said. “We would’ve played them again. We just want to get better and a step ahead this season. We want to get past where we were last year.”

But rather than focusing on what could’ve been had their regional final match gone as planned, the Mustangs have turned that initial disappointment into motivation this season.

“They know what it feels like to lose or to think they’ve lost,” Bongart said. “They don’t want to feel like they did at the end of that second regional match. But no matter what happens, we just like to come out and have some fun.”

Fun has been the key for the Mustangs this season. Lakewood returned with the majority of their roster still in tact, having only lost No. 4 singles player Jamie Bardwell to graduation.

“I guess what makes us a pretty good team is that we’re all really good friends,” Christianson said. “We come out and have fun and never really apply pressure on one another. And that’s kind of how we win.”

Mohanty agreed.

“I think we just have fun and try to win while having fun doing it,” he said. “If someone doesn’t perform well then there are others there to pick up the (slack).”

Lakewood is off to a perfect 10-0 start so far this season with quality wins over Riverview, Sarasota and Braden River. The Mustangs have six regular season matches remaining, including a pair of matches with Venice and a rematch with Riverview, and have put themselves in a position to finish the season undefeated for the second year in a row.

“It’s a little different with this team,” Bongart said. “What’s special about this team is that you have to beat our entire team. We really excel and have been successful the last two years in doubles, and we’re fortunate to have two good doubles teams.

“The players definitely care a lot about each other and they’ve become a very good team,” he added.

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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