Out on Matanzas’ tennis courts, Jason Legall has been hard to miss, mowing down older and bigger opponents to the tune of a 16-1 record during his freshman season.
He’s only set foot inside the school building twice — to fill out forms for a physical.
Legall is one of two homeschoolers on a Pirates squad that will seek its first team state championship on April 15 in Sanlando Park. Freshman Sidney Moon is the other. The pair can thank a 1996 Florida law, which allows homeschoolers to try out for and play on sports teams in their home districts.
Legall adheres to a robust schedule on the international tennis circuit, which forces him to miss some high school matches. When he's around, his routine contains limited wiggle room. He wakes up around 7:30 a.m. and works out with a private coach at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach from 9 to 11. After that, it’s seven hours of schooling in subjects like Honors Algebra.
“When Jason is in town, he’ll come to practice,” Matanzas coach Keith Lagocki said. “I think Jason enjoys being around the guys and the team when he’s here. I really think he relishes that.”
High school tennis is “such a team sport,” Legall said. “It’s your team against a bunch of others. And we’re like one.”
About a year ago, Matanzas No. 1 Davey Roberts approached Legall during one of his training sessions. He pitched a potential alignment of the stars if Legall were to come out for the Pirates squad.
“Nick (Petrillo) was two years older than me,” Roberts said, “so I knew I’d have two years with him, and I realized that Sidney and Jason were a year behind me. There would be this one golden year, where we’d all be together, hopefully.”
Matanzas' top four have a 97-8 record this season.
Moon has been homeschooled his entire life, with the exception of a semester spent in Tallinn, Estonia during his seventh grade year. He feels like one of the guys — even if he has to be a bit more organized than the rest.
“Probably the hardest part is keeping up with the schedule,” said Moon, who is the Pirates No. 4 singles player. “Most of the kids are at the school, so they don’t have to worry about what time to leave and everything. Other than that, it’s not too difficult.”
‘Who wants it more?’
Davey Roberts didn’t expect much, maybe to advance a round or two. He was 11, in Jacksonville to play in one of his first national tennis tournaments. But after he upset a national top-15 player in the second round, his expectations — and career aspirations — blossomed.
“I was so happy, I think I even cried a little after the match...” Roberts said. “That’s when I knew I could do something and be pretty good at this."
Roberts — now a sophomore at Matanzas — is 28-0 heading into the state tournament. He’s a five-star recruit on tennisrecruiting.net and figures to be a top target for Ivy League schools and the University of Florida moving forward.
“An undefeated season was my goal coming into high school tennis,” Roberts said. “So far, I’ve done that, but the season’s not over yet.”
He's been a leader for a Matanzas squad that's a mix of lifelong players and those who picked up a racket for the first time in high school.
“He’s a coach’s dream, because he’s so self-motivated,” Lagocki said. “For all the success he’s had, he works extremely hard for it… If you could pick qualities you want for your best player in any sport, he’s got those things.”
Roberts recently changed private coaches, a common practice for top players as they advance in skill level. He requires a different instructional touch as he continues his evolution as a player.
“There’s some technique, but it’s mostly mentality at this point,” Roberts said. "It comes down to who wants it more.”