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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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Boys tennis: Wharton's Alford wins state title

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS - Turns out, all Wharton High junior Michael Alford needed to win was a pep talk, some liquids and a new pair of socks. Alford got all of that before the third and deciding set of the Class 3A state singles championship and promptly won. A day after helping his Wildcats win their second consecutive state title, Alford added an individual title with a 7-5, 0-6, 6-1 victory against Fort Myers High's Michael Wardell. And he did so in dramatic fashion.
Prior to Wednesday's championship match with Wardell, Alford had dropped a total of six games in tournament play. But he quickly found himself in a first-set hole. Alford fell behind 5-2 before evening the set with a break and two strong service games. He then hit two service winners in the 12th game to win the first set. It was a different Alford in the second set, when he again fell behind early. But this time there was no rally and he was blanked in the set. During the break before the start of the third set, he received the pep talk from Wharton coach Marcie Scholl and a pair of socks and liquids from the father of Andy Hersh, Newsome's No. 1 player. "Coach told me to believe, which is our team motto, and then Mr. Hersh got me some socks and towels and stuff and that helped, too," Alford said. "I really wanted it. It was something that meant a lot to me." Unlike the first two sets, Alford got off to a quick start in the third, breaking the Auburn-bound Wardell and dropping only one game. Wardell and his doubles partner James Martineau went on to defeat Newsome's Hersh and Colin Edwards in the No. 1 doubles final 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3). The Newsome duo fell behind in the third set 3-1 but fought back to send it to a tiebreaker. In the girls 3A singles championship, Plant's Amber Li fell to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas' Bianca Sanon in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). After dropping the first set, Li jumped to a big lead in the second and served for the set three times but was broken each time. "I didn't play bad, but I didn't serve that well," said Li, who helped lead the Panthers to the 3A team title Tuesday. "My serve just fell apart." In the 4A and 2A competition that began Wednesday, Jesuit's Chase Merlin (2A) and Wiregrass Ranch's Sydney Simpson (2A) lost their first-round matches. Alonso's Tyler Snook (4A) received a first-round bye as the tournament's No. 1 seed but lost his quarterfinals match in straight sets. Reporter Katherine Smith can be reached at

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