SAN ANGELO – Sterling City made its mark on the Region II-1A Tennis Tournament on Tuesday at the Bentwood County Club.
Sterling City won the boys ‘and girls’ doubles titles, and each of them came in memorable three-setters, to highlight a strong display from the Concho Valley schools, which included championships by Water Valley and Irion County.
Today’s match was an all-Sterling City girls doubles final, with Kate Barnes and Mia Garcia defending their regional title with a thrilling 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 victory over teammates Kinzee Woods and Brooklyn Gaines.
The match lasted about three hours and was not settled until Barnes and Garcia survived with a 7-2 victory in the third set tiebreaker.
Despite the loss, Woods and Gaines were able to avoid a playback, and both Lady Eagles teams advance to the UIL State Championships on the 26th-27th. April in San Antonio.
They also hope to meet in the final of that tournament.
Sterling City head coach Wendy Justiss said the two teams have beaten each other several times, including a win over Woods and Gaines in the district.
“We knew from the year onwards that there would be a fight between them,” Justiss said. “We sat down and talked about having the opportunity to push each other. If we do not let the enmity come in and if it can be about making everyone better, then we will be a really good team and we can do some really good stuff. “
Barnes and Garcia lost in the semifinals of the state tournament last year, while Woods won the state title in mixed doubles with Dain Copeland.
Sterling City second-year Johnny Monreal and Rowdy Ferguson are also returning to the state, but they will go there as regional champions this time after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Crowell’s Dylan Carney and Brayden Hernandez.
Monreal and Ferguson lost to Crowell last year in the regional finals. Crowell’s Carney and Colby Carroll went on to win the state title.
“I put the two guys together last year as freshmen and they complement each other really well,” Justiss said. “(Ferguson) has some power and (Monreal) never knocks the ball out.
“Crowell beat Menard (in the regional semifinals on Monday), and Menard beat us three weeks ago. So I thought, ‘We have to play really well today,’ and they did. They came out and scrambled and did everything, what they could do to win the point. “
Carney and Hernandez were able to avoid a playback with a win by Menards Roy Brown and Wyatt Terrell in third place.
Irion County and Water Valley ensured that it would be a round of the doubles titles of the Concho Valley schools when they met about the mixed doubles title.
Irion County’s Melanie Rainey and Tayte Cormier rolled to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Water Valley’s Emily Crawford and Tallon Hayes.
Crawford and Hayes were able to avoid a playback thanks to a victory in third place by Veribest’s Emily Scott and Konnor Barnes.
Rainey reached the state semifinals last year in girls’ singles before joining Cormier this spring, best known for his three straight regional titles in cross country.
In girls singles, Water Valley’s Alyssa Urbantke continued her dominant game with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Buena Vista’s Lexy Alfante.
Urbantke lost just six matches in four matches at the regional tournament.
“I mainly tried to play consistently, but in the end I gave everything and played every game as if it was my last,” said Urbantke.
It was the first experience at the regional tournament for Urbantke, who finished third in the district as second.
“I was very nervous (before the regional final), but I remained calm and thought of it as just another match,” Urbantke said. “I’m so excited and so ready for the state. I’m going to work even harder.”
Alfante survived a playback match over Fort Davis’ Maita Morales for the second and final ticket to the state from girls singles.
In boys singles, Highlands ‘Tyler Slaton defended his regional title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Grandfalls’ Gavriel Rodriguez.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure, but in the end it just comes down to the mental game. Stay cool and you can come back and that was what showed,” Slaton said.
Slaton took third place in the state last year. He hopes to take it a step further this year and reach the championship.
“I’m still really nervous, but I’ve had my mindset changed, so I think I have a better chance this year to control my anger,” Slaton said.
Slaton beat Rising Stars Colt Lawrence 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in the regional semifinals Monday in what turned out to be his toughest match in San Angelo.
Lawrence worked his way back to qualify for the state, however, with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Sterling City’s Shane Pugh in third place, followed by a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Rodriguez in the playoffs.