1. Kallenberg (N) d. Kangwa 6-3, 6-0; 2. Novoa (FM) d. Graziani 6-2, 6-0; 3. Chavez (FM) d. Gould 6-2, 6-3; 4. Rethjeber (FM) d. Mearshemier 6-2, 6-2; 5. Karunamuni (FM) d. Regala 6-2, 6-0
FORT MYERS — The Fort Myers High girls tennis team considered themselves the underdogs entering Tuesday’s Class 3A regional semifinal against a strong Naples High squad.
But just over an hour after the match started, the young Fort Myers team was celebrating after a 4-1 upset over the Golden Eagles. The Green Wave now advances to play Barron Collier on Thursday for the Class 3A regional title.
“Today was really great because we had three freshman, a sophomore and a junior out there playing,” Fort Myers coach Ron Riis said. “I have to give the girls a ton of credit for sucking up their nerves against a team like Naples.”
The result was somewhat surprising considering that Naples had beaten Fort Myers 6-1 earlier in the season. The Green Wave had also lost three of their top five players off of the 2011 squad, which beat Naples in last year’s regional semifinal.
“We had nothing to lose, and we felt like they had everything to prove because we lost to them earlier this year 1 to 6,” Riis said. “We were the underdog and that’s the way we like it.”
Naples will send its No. 1 player to the state tournament despite the loss, which ended the team’s season. Nikki Kallenberg was the only winner for Naples on Tuesday, after topping Thandive Kangwa, 6-3, 6-0.
But on the other four courts the Green Wave dominated. Three freshmen and a junior all won in straight sets for Fort Myers.
“We definitely weren’t expecting to come out and win this way,” Fort Myers freshman Stephanie Chavez said. “Especially after losing to them 6-1. We just wanted to play our hearts out and play our game. We’re definitely excited.”
Fort Myers’ No. 2 player, Chandler Novoa, used a vicious forehand to best Gaby Granziani, 6-2, 6-0. Immediately after that match finished, Ansley Rethjeber celebrated a 6-2, 6-2 win over Miranda Mearshemier.
“This time it was the semifinal of the regional so we all came in with our best attitudes,” Novoa said. “We had confidence. The same thing happened last year. We lost during the season, and came back and won in the regionals. So we came in with the same mind-set and just made it happen.”
The doubles matches weren’t necessary because Fort Myers won four of the five singles matches. Behind a strong service game, Chavez took down Laney Gould 6-2, 6-3. And the eldest player squad, junior Nishami Karunamuni, secured a Fort Myers berth into the regional final with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sam Regala.
“We just want to learn from this experience,” Riis said. “We want to be able to come out and show people that we can battle with some of the better teams. You can’t ask for anything more than they did today. There’s a bright future.”