Before a word is written about our tennis team, we would just like to take this opportunity to thank all those that made their way to College Station to support our team. So many came that didn’t have kids playing…just came to support our team. It was totally amazing. Probably the best part about the support was that it was in great sportsmanship and in great appreciation of good tennis. Our fans didn’t try to intimidate, but we all knew they were with us all the way.
Another example of support came from all those adult players that came out last week to play our kids. While other schools were trying to dig up a match with anyone they could find, we had top quality matches against class players. Thanks to each of you for your help and support.
Now on to tennis in College Station. The Punchers and Cowgirls once again made a strong presence as all four entries to the state tennis tournament made it to the finals. It was a very busy first day as the A&M facility has 27 courts so after the first round singles matches got underway, Mason had someone playing the rest of the time.
The junior mixed doubles team of Claudia Canfield and Coby Velez started off with a tough senior team from Sterling City. The Mason duo was able to capture a 6-4,6-3 victory and be the only number two regional mixed doubles to make it out of the first round. They then went on to play an experience Ft Hancock team that gave Mason all we could handle. Mason jumped out to a 6-2 lead only to watch Ft Hancock chisel its way back into the match winning the second set 6-2. The third set showed what our kids could do as they played a very aggressive set and captured the juniors’ first trip ever to the state finals.
The trip to the finals was against an old opponent. The two time defending state champs, Taylor Lyckman and Riley Rambo of Menard had once again made it to the finals. We have played them numerous times this year with Mason playing one of their best matches against them at the regional finals. Mason jumped out quickly to a 2-0 lead, but we played a sloppy game at that point and took the pressure off of Menard. That is something we knew we should never do. The Yellowjacket team played probably their best match of the year when it counted most and was able to capture the gold against us.
The doubles teams all had great opening matches as Carley Chew (junior) and Kirsten Allen (freshman) beat a number one team from Hubbard 6-2,6-3 and then took on San Saba’s Crosby and Haverland. Mason struggled some early, but stepped up their game and dominated the second set 6-2.
The two-time defending state champions, Traci Jordan (junior) and Margaret Lemke (senior ) got out of the blocks early with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Blue Ridge and then taking on two six foot all-state volleyball players from Wink. The Wink girls were ready for battle and played hard the entire match, but was simply no match for Mason and fell 6-2,6-3.
This set up a rematch of the district and regional finals between the two Mason teams. This was the 11th time Mason girls have played each other in the finals of the state championships. Jordan and Lemke got off to a quick start and showed why they are the defending champions. Both teams played well, but Traci and Margaret seemed to have an answer for everything Carley and Kirsten had to throw at them. With match point facing the girls, Kirsten ripped two backhands down the line for winners showing that they would never give up, but on the fourth match point, Margaret slipped out and nailed a volley to finish the match and earn herself her fourth state championship. This was the first time in over 50 years that anyone has won four doubles titles and she became only the second player in Mason’s history to do it following last year when Matt Banner won his fourth singles title. Traci will have her shot for a fourth title next year.
In the boys doubles, the Mason team of Junior Price Ruffin and Senior Rio Schmidt entered the tournament as the probable favorites as they had wins over several of the 2A state qualifiers as well as a win over Fredericksburg boys team that ended 2nd in state in 3A. They didn’t disappoint anyone as they hammered Water Valley 6-1,6-1 in the opening match and followed by an impressive performance against a strong Claude team 6-2,6-1.
This set up a rematch between Mason and the Fischer twins of Miles. The twins are great competitors as we defeated them at the regional team tournament this year a 3,2. The twins played very well the first set allowing their off-pace serve to bother the Puncher duo, but Price opened the 2nd set with a tremendous forehand down the line and Mason never looked back until Rio nailed a forehand volley to end the match and give Mason their 80th state championship since Steve Latham won the first one in 1935.
It was a conclusion to a great tournament for the Punchers and Cowgirls. However great Mason did it was overshadowed by the performance of Abilene Wylie as it became the only school in UIL history to sweep singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. We want to congratulate Coach Gilreith and her splendid team. Wylie always makes it down for our Hill Country Classic tournament and we always enjoy getting to play such top quality tennis. Guess that will give us a new goal to start working for.
Mason has a very young team with only three seniors on the varsity. We should be strong again next year. We will be getting Monaco Schmidt back next year after having to lay out this year with her broken ankle. We had a good freshmen class this year and another good one coming up next year. We are excited and hope the kids continue to work hard in the summer and off-season so that we can continue the level of play that has been the greatest Tradition of the Hill Country.