Kyle Eason will face Connor Bright and Alejandra Fernandez-Mora will play Dani Santiago in the No. 1 singles finals Tuesday
LAKELAND — Kyle Eason responded to the pressure.
The Lakeland junior was getting hammered by Kissimmee Osceola’s Jacob Johnson in the second set of a No. 1 singles semifinals match at the Class 4A, District 5 tournament on Monday, but somehow regrouped after a 3-6 loss.
Eason, the county runner-up and West Polk champion, who had jumped out to a good start winning the first set 6-2, battled through the tie-breaker set and won 11-9 to advance to the district finals championship match against George Jenkins senior Connor Bright slated for today at Florida Southern.
“I got rattled, I guess. I was confused at what to do with the serve. I couldn’t seem to get it back. I was struggling to get the ball back in play,” Eason said.
“The first set, he got off to a rough start and I was able to take advantage of that. And in the second set, he played way better. I mean he blew me off the court. He had big serves and big shots. But in the tie-breaker I was able to regroup some and it was a really close match. It could have gone either way.”
Eason beat Bright in a third-set tie-breaker earlier in the season, but the two have gone back and forth with victories during their careers. The winner of the match will seize an automatic berth into the FHSAA 4A state championships beginning May 2 in Altamonte Springs.
“I am not thinking about (state). Connor is a good player and it is one match at a time,” Eason said.
Bright advanced after topping Ridge Community’s Ebin Maddox 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals before handling Alex Moutran 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.
“It’s got to be a good match against Kyle and I am getting ready for it,” Bright said. “Today, I was just grinding them down. Trying not to miss and I wasn’t doing anything special.”
The girls No. 1 singles final features George Jenkins junior Alejandra Fernandez-Mora, who was a district champion and state qualifier at Bartow last year, against this year’s county runner-up and East Polk champion Dani Santiago.
“We are both in the final so we are both equally nervous. I am counting on past experience to not stress myself out. I am hoping for the best but am preparing for the worst,” said Fernandez-Mora, who was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Maria Freqonezi from Kissimmee Celebration in the semifinals.
“I definitely want to go to state. I want to keep it up and start a tradition. But it is a lot of pressure to think of that and hold myself to such high standards. I have to play my best.”
Santiago advanced after beating Lakeland senior Megan Kelson in the semifinals 6-2, 6-3.
“I just stayed in the game. I didn’t even play my game today. I’m not sure why but I managed to win,” Santiago said. “I have never been to states so that would be exciting. Just going to finals will be fun. but going to states would be like the best thing ever.”
Play will resume at 8 a.m. at Florida Southern on Tuesday, which will also include doubles action picking up in the semifinals.
The overall district champion and district runner-up teams will advance to the regional competition on April 24.
Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@newschief.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports
No. 1 – Quarterfinals: Bright (GJ) def. Maddox (RC) 6-0, 6-0; Johnson (KO) def. Manuel (HC) 6-0, 6-0; Semis: Bright def. Moutran (KC) 6-3, 6-4; Eason (LK) def. Johnson 6-2, 3-6 (11-9). No. 2 – Quarterfinals: McKleary (KO) def. Kennon (HC) 6-2, 6-1; Gonzales (GJ) def. Winters (RC) 7-5, 6-1; Semis: Partidas (KC) def. McKleary (KO) 6-2, 6-2; No. 3 – Quarterfinals: Mahmud (GJ) def. Gould (RC) 7-5, 6-4; Lewis (KO) def, Mgyugen 6-1, 6-0; Semis: Scaggs (KC) def. Mahmud 6-2, 6-2; Rozzen (LK) def. Lewis 6-1, 6-1. No. 4 – Quarterfinals: Prickett (GJ) def. Sell (RC) 7-5, 6-2; Justin Fumes (KO) def. Shilts (HC) 6-1, 6-2; Semis: Shah (KC) def. Prickett 6-3, 6-4; Roberts def. Fumes 6-3, 6-2. No. 5 – Quarterfinals: DeOliveria (KC) def. Pagon (RC) 6-3, 6-1; Shelby (GJ) def. Maganti (HC) 6-1,6-3; Semis: Saxema def. Olivera 6-2, 6-0.
No. 1 – Quarterfinals: Fregonezi (KC) def. Barnhart (HC) 7-5, 6-4; Kelson (LK) def. Yapp (KO) 6-3, 6-3; Semis: Fernandez-Mora (GJ) def. Fregonezi (HC) 6-2, 6-3; Santiago (RC) def. Kelson 6-2, 6-3. No. 2 – Quarterfinals: Shahin (LK) def. Dospueblos (KO) 6-0,6-0; Godwin (GJ) def. Bower (HC) 6-1,6-1; Semis: Romain (RC) def. Romain 6-2,7-6; Coelho (KC) def. Godwin 6-0, 6-2. No. 3 – Quarterfinals: Alves (HC) def. Stomarie (KO) 6-2, 6-2; Davis (GJ) def. Burningham (RC) 6-2, 6-2; Semis: Fernandez-Mora (LK) def. Alves 6-1, 5-3 (inj.), Vasconcellos (KC) def. Davis 1-6, 6-3 (10-8) No. 4 – Quarterfinals: Valenti (LK) def. Martin (RC) 6-0, 6-0; Joseph (GJ) def. Schneider (KO)6-0, 6-0; Semis: Torres (KC) def. Valenti (LK) 7-5, 6-0; Parra (HC) def. Joseph 6-2, 3-6 (11-9). No. 5 – Quarterfinals: Badcock (GJ) def. Samaroo (RC) 6-1, 6-0; Rajauru (LK) def. George (HC) 6-0, 6-2; Semis: Badcock def. Delcoh (KC) 6-1, 6-4.
Note: First-round doubles results not available.