SAN ANTONIO – Concho Valley athletes returned home with seven state titles Wednesday from the UIL Tennis State Championships in San Antonio.
Mason’s three state titles were secured before the day began after the school locked up all-Mason finals in boys doubles, girls doubles and mixed doubles in the 2A bracket. The Punchers and Cowgirls now have 107 state titles over the years.
Wall claimed two state titles, while Reagan County and Sterling City each added another.
Wall junior Payne Smith defended his state title in 3A boys singles with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Idalou’s Logan Randall.
“I was really able to hit my shots through the back part of the court and I was able to get to the net easy and really be on offense most of the time,” Smith said. “I was never really on defense.”
Meanwhile, Wall’s boys doubles team of Bryson Hirt and Jack Duncan won their first gold medals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Peaster’s Levi Weertman and Tobi Ellis.
Reagan County’s Shyan Darr and Ethan Kuykendall gave their school back-to-back 3A mixed doubles state titles with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Groesbeck’s Emily Menzel and Blane Sadler.
Darr also won state last year, teaming with Delaney Yanez to win the 3A girls doubles title.
Sterling City sophomores Johnathan Monreal and Rowdy Ferguson won the 1A boys doubles title after being a few points away from losing the match.
They rallied from a one-set deficit and survived a second-set tiebreaker to win 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 over Rocksprings’ Ethan Hyde and Hunter Oliver.
“I think that it shows that we have a lot of heart and whatever happens we fight to the end,” Monreal said. “I think we represented our school well and it shows our hard work and dedication.”
Ferguson added, “I think that since we’re sophomores, we’re just going to get better and better and hopefully we’ll do it three times.”
Wall’s girls doubles team of Avery Jameson and Andie McCasland, who had an exciting three-set comeback win in the semifinals Tuesday, fell short, 6-1, 6-4, in their gold-medal match against Peaster’s Bailey Gilbert and Perla Dunn.
Payne Smith said the Wall boys and girls developed a lot of chemistry as the season progressed.
“The first part of the season, we didn’t all click and we really got through it and we’ve all become brothers and sisters,” the two-time 3A boys singles titlist said. “We do anything for each other and it’s great to see the success coming through.”
Mason’s boys doubles team of Jack Gillespie and Robert Aguero outlasted teammates Jay Ahlschwede and Bailan Kerr 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the championship.
“We’ve been fighting against them all year,” Gillespie said. “They beat us at both district and regionals, so we were on a mission today and we got it done.”
It’s often said in sports that it’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season and that was the case for Ahlschwede and Kerr.
“We knew all the pressure was on them,” Aguero said. “They’re a senior and a junior and we were just a sophomore and junior, first year playing varsity tennis.”
The Cowgirls’ duo of Jakelin Zermeno and Reagan Norman topped Mason teammates Lucy Rochat and Kinsley Jordan 6-2, 6-2 for the 2A girls doubles title.
Playing your own teammates is never easy.
“It’s tough because you’re friends outside the court, but whenever you step on the court, you have to act like you’ve never played them before,” Zermeno said. “It’s hard because we play them every single day in practice. You’ve just got to go out there and do your thing.”
Norman won the title with a different partner last year, and Zermeno was on the losing end of a 3-hour, 45-minute marathon.
“It was so intense and exhausting,” Norman said of the 2021 2A girls doubles state-title match. “It was probably the worst match I’ve ever played, but we won.”
Norman is one of five seniors on Mason’s team and she’s very appreciative of playing for the winningest team in Texas.
“It’s been great,” the Cowgirls senior said. “Mason tennis has taught me a lot about confidence, keeping your cool and staying calm and sportsmanship, and really, just how to be a leader. I’m very thankful that I got to be a part of this program and I’m also thankful that I got to play with Jakelin and I get to end on a win. “
Mason’s mixed doubles team of Kyleigh Ake and Mason Hatfield battled back for a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 nail-biter against teammates Sterling Smith and Tate Spencer.
Head coach Cade Smith put things in perspective about having players going up against each other in the state finals.
“I’d say it’s definitely harder than what people think,” the Mason coach said. “Coach (Salah Smith) Eckert (his sister di lui) and I get the opportunity to watch those teams play each other that we’ve watched all year long.
“You want to coach them and you want to help them and then at the end of it, you’re really, really happy for the people who won it and you’re really, really sad for the ones that didn’t. It’s a good problem to have. I’m really pleased with the outcome of the whole tournament and I’m just happy that we’re able to be in that position. “
Irion County’s mixed doubles team of Melanie Rainey and Tayte Cormier lost in the 1A mixed doubles final 6-1, 7-5 against Utopia’s Cherish Dunlap and Will Leman.
“The first (set), we were kind of out of it, just those state jitters,” Cormier said. “But then that second set, we came back and almost won it 7-5. I was really hoping it would go to a third (set).
“I think we fought for everything we could. It just wasn’t our day, but I’m looking forward to next year. I’m a junior and my partner’s a sophomore.”
The Irion County duo tipped its hat to the Utopia team.
“Those two are fantastic players,” Rainey said. “The boy on that team has a wicked top-spin ball and that girl is fantastic at the net. She stays in the rallies with us. They were all around a really good team.”
Rainey felt more comfortable in her second trip to state.
“Last year, I was really, really nervous,” she said. “I came in girls singles and this year the opportunity came for Tayte and I to get together and I thought that would really be a fun experience.
“Last year, it was mentally exhausting to be all by myself and this year Tayte has really helped me and encouraged me to have fun this year.”
Christoval’s Blake Jenkins lost 6-1, 6-1 in the 2A girls singles final to Albany’s Sarah Cotter.
Despite coming up short in the finals, Jenkins left the Alamo City with a big smile on her face after having to settle for a third-place finish last year.
“That’s the same girl I played last year in the semifinals,” Jenkins said. “She beat me in the semifinals last year. I got to play her again in the finals, so that was pretty cool. It’s my senior year and I was able to relax a little bit.
“I just thought, ‘Let’s have fun and what happens, happens. And so I think that helped me a lot. I met up with Mason yesterday (Chainey Weitz in the semifinals) and I probably played the best tennis I’ve played, so I’m super excited about that. I just think it was more fun this time. I’m super excited and I couldn’t end my senior year better. “