lecanto

Members of the Lecanto girls tennis team are all smiles after defeating Seminole on Thursday at home in a Class 3A regional final to advance to next week’s state meet. Pictured, from left, Jahnavi Kompella, Kashin Mathur, Mirabelle Tahiri, head coach Alice Christian, Nandini Karanam, Shreya Lachireddy and team manager Angel Villacastin.

LECANTO — Last week, the Lecanto girls No. 1 doubles team clinched a spot at states by winning a district championship.

On Thursday, the No. 2 doubles pairing for the Panthers of Jahnavi Kompella and Kashin Mathur earned their own trip to the FHSAA Finals by securing a regional title for their team.

Kompella and Mathur rallied from a set down, then erased a three-point deficit in the tiebreaking third set, and Lecanto defeated visiting Seminole in the Region 3A-5 final, 4-3.

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“This is like something we’ve been thinking of since the beginning of the season and we’ve been working up to,” Kompella said, “and now it’s like a dream come true and it just feels so good.”

A day after the Panthers didn’t need to play doubles in a 5-0 win over Osceola, this one came down to a tense final match between Kompella/Mathur and Melanie Grantges and Joanna Steenberge from the Warhawks.

Grantges and Steenberge edged Kompella and Mathur in the first set, 7-5. At the time that score didn’t seem so critical for Lecanto. The next court over, Mirabelle Tahiri and Nandini Karanam were up a set in the No. 1 doubles match.

But Frankee Hendricks and Leslee Hendricks came back and ended up defeating the Panthers in a tiebreaker, 3-6, 6-4, 10-4. Suddenly the overall team score was tied at 3-3, just as Lecanto was on the verge of winning the second set at No. 2 doubles.

Kompella and Mathur fell behind midway through the third set, 7-4, and were down 8-6 before knotting it up at 8. The two teams exchanged points before the Panthers scored the final two. One last return into the net by the Warhawks gave Lecanto the 5-7, 6-2, 11-9 triumph.

“It was so amazing. It was so nerve-wracking. But it just felt so good after,” Kompella said. “We just thought we had to get every ball in. We couldn’t hit something out into the net. We just had to get every ball in and just play like that.”

“The first set was really close and then all the games were close. I was worried,” Mathur said. “We just moved more, just focused more.”

“I think it was just determination,” Lecanto head coach Alice Christian said. “Watching them play, they just were very patient, keeping the ball in play. Sometimes you’ve just got to let the other team make mistakes. And when the ball came their way at the net they just would put it away and make the point and just move on. So I think they were very diligent about just keeping the ball in play.”

At one point during singles play the Panthers held a 3-1 overall edge. Kompella beat Grantges at No. 3, 6-2, 6-0, and Mathur won at No. 5 over Skye Liberda, 6-1, 6-1.

Seminole got one back when Leslee Hendricks bested Karanam at No. 2, 6-3, 6-4, but moments later Tahiri knocked off Frankee Hendricks at No. 1, 6-3, 6-4.

That left the No. 4 match on the court. Shreya Lachireddy nearly battled back to force a third set before succumbing to Steenberge, 6-2, 6-4.

In the end, though, as the afternoon had turned to early evening the other three Panthers all got to share in the victory as they raced over to embrace and celebrate with Kompella and Mathur as they came off the court.

“So happy, so excited for them. Them and their families are very excited,” Christian said. “Especially as a young girls team to make it to this point and to win districts and to win regionals to go to state as a team, I think it’s just amazing. It’s really amazing.”

Next up will be the 3A state tournament starting Monday at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a challenge for them. I know just from going to states with other teams that it’s a whole step above everybody else,” Christian said. “They just need to make sure that they come ready to play, bring their ‘A’ game and just be ready to play hard, have fun.”

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Contact Chronicle sports reporter Chris Bernhardt at 352-563-5660, chris.bernhardt@chronicleonline.com or on twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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