Mason tennis increased its number of state championships to sixty-seven, more than double the next closest school. The team traveled to Austin with six entries in the tournament. They came home with four championships, one second place, and one third place.
The first championship was brought home in boys’ singles by freshman, Matt Banner. Matt is the first boys state champion in singles since James Kelly Schmidt won it in ’85, and repeated in ’86. It’s been a long time since we even had anyone make it to state. It is quite an accomplishment especially for a freshman.
Matt toughest match was in the first round against Turkey’s Brad Ramsey. The players both fought hard before Banner ended the match with a big forehand and advance to the semi’s 6-4, 6-4. In the semi’s, Matt dominated a feisty Gruver senior, Taylor Williams, 6-1, 6-3. This set up the regional rematch between Banner and Max Wilson of Leakey. Just as in the regional finals, Matt was much too consistent for the fellow freshman as he won the championship match 6-2, 6.2. Matt has no glaring weaknesses. He solid off both sides on the ground and can play net as well as having a solid serve. The older and more physically stronger he gets will only allow him to get better and better.
The next state championship came only minutes after Banner finished as sophomore Makenzie Mitchell captured her first gold medal. Makenzie defeated senior, Kaitlyn Cash of Afton 6-1, 6-4. Cash was a very strong player with deep groundstrokes, but Makenzie kept her on the defense the whole match with deep loopy shots and consistently changing pace and location on her serves. Mak played a very smart match and never gave Cash anything to work with.
Makenzie dominated her first match 6-0, 6-3 and then played the defending state champion Hanna Lange from Miles. We have played Miles a couple of times over the last two years, but this was the first time we had seen Lange. We knew she was consistent, but we were all shocked how consistent she really was. Mak was able to keep the ball in the court until she was able to put Lange in a defensive position and then Makenzie would drive the ball to a corner to finish the point.
If anyone has been to the courts any evening they have seen Makenzie (and her father, Mark) hitting balls. She has had to overcome a season-ending knee surgery last year that kept out of tennis. She has worked so hard to come back. It was fitting to see her walk off with gold.
Mason’s other girls singles entry was junior, Ellie Blair. Ellie found herself pitted against Trenton’s Alix Agan in the first round. Ellie totally dominated Agan with her serve and by moving the ball around the court. Ellie’s got as tough of serve as we have on our girl’s team and she was able to get a lot of cheap points during the match. Ellie was also able to chip and move the ball up and back keeping Agan off balanced the entire match.
In the semi’s, Ellie faced Cash of Afton. Ellie served the first game and blasted five first serves in the court and each came back blistering back to a corner. After that service break, Cash preceded to not miss a first serve in her first two games, serving with more pace and placement than she did at any point in her first match.
The entire match pretty much went that way. Ellie served well, but for every good shot we hit, Cash had an answer. There was no doubt that Cash played the best match of her career in the semi’s as she defeated Ellie 6-1, 6-1 giving Ellie the bronze medal in singles which is an excellent achievement for someone who actually is more at home playing doubles.
The girls’ doubles ended as so many have in the last several years…Mason v Mason in the finals. This is what every coach dreams of…not having to coach the finals match. The only problem with this finals is that it was all Mason seniors; meaning that we have lots of shoes to fill next year.
Madison Burney and Lauren Keith entered the tournament as the regional runners-up which meant that they had to play the regional champions Damian/Gonzales of Miles in the first round. Burney and Keith took little time disposing of the Miles seniors 6-1, 6-1. This put the girls against Fort Hancock (another regional champion) in the semis. Galindo and Gonzales put up a great battle, but Mason overcame a slow finally started taking control of the net and playing aggressively as they defeated Ft. Hancock 6-2, 7-5.
Mason’s other team of Denay Baxter and Brittany Estes walked through their first round match against McLean 6-1, 6-2 and set up a tough semi-final match with Nazareth’s Nutt and Rundell. Rundell already had a gold medal in doubles as she and her brother won the first 1A state championship in mixed doubles. Denay and Brittany were just too consistent for the Nazareth team as their position was impeccable. Mason advanced to the finals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
This set up the all Mason final for the third year in a row. Both teams were ready to play, but Baxter and Estes simply played the best match they played all year. Baxter is the defending state champion and Estes was the bronze medalist last year in singles and their experience paid off as they were able to relax and play flawlessly against their teammates. As the 6-2, 6-0 match ended, all the girls embraced shed tears together. These girls have pushed one another all year each making the other better and were rewarded by the top two positions in the state.
The last match on the court was also a rematch of the regional finals as Mason and Menard squared off for the fourth and final time this year. Senior Bobby Buist and junior teammate, Michael Vargas, advanced to the finals losing only three games total in their first two matches.
In the first round Mason took on Medina and Medina of Grady. This was half of the state championship mixed doubles team from last year. We knew this team would try to lob us to death, so Bobby and Michael have practiced overheads for two weeks straight. It paid off as they won 6-1, 6-1 to advance to the semi-finals against last year’s silver medalists, Poolville’s Brawley and Smith. Mason was never in trouble as they totally dominated Poolville 6-1, 6-0 to set up the rematch with Menard the defending state champions.
Menard’s Hill and Kothmann came out firing as the teams battled back and forth the entire first set. Neither team would concede a single point without a battle. Mason force the first set tiebreaker and after trailing a service break was able to pull it off 7-5. The second set was much like the first until at 3-3, Michael served almost a perfect game and then broke Kothmann at love to allow Bobby a chance to serve out the match.
Bobby had struggled much of the match, but the boys decided to try some Australian and T doubles, two formations we have worked on for two years, but don’t use a lot. This proved to be what Bobby needed to take the pressure off his first volley and Bobby was able to serve out the match and allow the boys to win their first gold medals.
This culminated a super season where Mason won its 7th straight team championship in 2A, a second place finish in the 1A state team championships with our JV, and what would have been a sweep in year’s past. For the fourth time in the history of Texas tennis one school has won all the boys and girls singles and doubles championships. Only this year, this is not a sweep as now there is mixed doubles.
Menard’s Laci Lyckman and Zach Rambo captured the gold in mixed this year. Mason’s consolation to this was that Mason’s Amanda Henrich and Dakota Wawrzyniak lost to Menard at regionals, but defeated them two of the three times they played this year. This is really shows how tough Mason is.
Mason will have its hands full next year as they will lose 12 seniors this year…7 girls and 5 boys. There is no way Coach Bourke or myself can thank these kids enough as they have been great leaders for four years. My “Seven Senior Angels” have competed with one another every day for four years. There has never been a harsh word or a hint of jealousy between any of them. They have always supported each other both on the court and off. The boys have been the same way. They have left a legacy for all our younger players and have kept the tradition in tact.