Viera girls make history at state tennis tournament


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Viera High’s Sasha Belaya, left, and Izzie Diaz became the first tennis players in program history to win state titles last month. Belaya won the Class 3A singles title and she and Diaz won the doubles title.

PHOTO BY CARL KOTALA

And then there were two … state champions, that is.

Viera High’s Sasha Belaya and Izzie Diaz became the first tennis players from either the boys or girls programs to win a state championship last month with an impressive performance at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

Belaya, a junior, defeated Geetha Velusamy of East Lake 6-2, 6-3 to win the Class 3A individual singles championship.

She then teamed with Diaz for a 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-1) victory against Catherine Jakeway and Gabriela Castello of Nease to win the Class 3A doubles title.

“These girls saw some fierce competition at the state level and, because of their hard work and dedication, they came back to Viera High School as the champions,” Hawks coach Maria Woodruff wrote in an email. “I’m very proud of the 2016 Viera High School girls tennis team, it was a successful season.”

After going undefeated in the regular season and winning the Cape Coast Conference and district titles along the way, the Hawks won their first regional playoff match against Jensen Beach before losing on the road to eventual state champ West Boca Raton.

As district champs, Belaya and Diaz qualified for the individual state tournament and received the No. 1 seed  in both singles and doubles.

Belaya, a tournament player who is ranked No. 4 in the state in the 18s and No. 41 in the nation in the 16s, had never played Velusamy before. But she was expecting a tough match.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first set, she told herself to shake it off and just play tennis.

“I was pretty excited when I won,” Belaya said. “I screamed pretty loud, didn’t I?” she asked Diaz, who responded with an affirmative.

“I was just relieved and really happy that I won because I know that a lot of people wanted me to win states. They thought I could at the beginning. I was happy I was able to come through with it.”

Diaz, who moved to Florida from Omaha, Neb., was excited about playing in the doubles final.

Not only have she and Belaya formed a fast friendship, but she said the level of play in Florida is better than Nebraska, giving the state title even more meaning.

And after losing the first set, she and Belaya — playing her fourth match of the day — rallied for the victory.

“I really wanted to win because last year I got really far in states in Nebraska and I got injured and I lost to someone I should not have lost to,” Diaz said. “I wanted to redeem myself and do better this year, and in Florida, which is a way bigger deal.”