East Polk Tennis:: Pate Puts Focus on Winning East Title First
Tue. March 19, 2013 at 3:37 a.m. | By Bill Kemp
All Saints' Academy's Tyler Pate returns a shot against Auburndale's Colin Meadows on Monday afternoon. (Photo by MICHAEL WILSON | THE LEDGER)
By BILL KEMP | LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
WINTER HAVEN | Tyler Pate has grown almost a foot since he first began playing in the East Polk County tennis championships and he's not even close to be finished.
The All Saints' Academy junior will look to win his third-consecutive East Polk boys singles title when he faces Winter Haven's Blake Dantzler in the No. 1 singles final at noon today at the Winter Haven City Courts.
Pate, who began his varsity tennis career as a 5-foot-1 seventh-grader, can advance to the Polk County championships Wednesday at the Beerman Tennis Complex in Lakeland with a win. He has been the county runner-up to Lakeland's four-time champion Danny Mack the past two years.
"I'm not the smallest guy on the tennis court anymore," said Pate, who now stands 5 feet 11. "Obviously I want to focus on one match at a time. I have a tough match (with Dantzler) that I have to focus on first. I'll focus on (the Polk County title) if it comes to that."
After the first day's action, All Saints' and Winter Haven were tied 11-11 atop the boys' team standings. The Saints will field a player in four of the five singles finals and both doubles semifinals while Winter Haven has a player alive in all five singles finals and both doubles brackets. The last No. 2 doubles quarterfinals between Winter Haven and Fort Meade was called because of rain and will resume today.
"What I want is for my kids to come out and play with confidence," Winter Haven head coach Pat Miller said. "The first time we played them they beat us 6-1. You have to hand it to All Saints. They've gone to state three years in a row. They will probably go back again this year and probably next year as well. I think every school should play them because you get to play one of the best teams in the county."
First-place Winter Haven took a 12-10 lead over All Saints' in the East Polk girls tournament standings at the Cindy Hummel Tennis Center in Auburndale Monday.
In today's marquee matchup, Lake Region's top-seeded Shannon Griffin will square off against Winter Haven's Hayley Lockwood in the No. 1 singles final. The two split a pair of matches earlier in the season.