In just 14 short days the tennis team as managed to win the state team championship (in Abilene), dominate the UIL Individual District Tournament (in Kerrville) and sweep the UIL Regional Championships (in College Station). It seems like we have been on a tennis circuit the last two weeks, but we sure can’t complain about the results.
Mason entered the regional tournament last Wednesday and Thursday with twelve players filling 8 of the 10 possible positions. We knew going in that we had a good chance of advancing several kids, but to sweep the tournament was a great surprise.
Mason lost its first player in the first round as sophomore Nick Dyer met up against a strong player from Ben Bolt. Playing for the first time whether it is at district, regionals, or state is always tough because you don’t know what to expect and we haven’t had a chance to scout any opponents. There are always some upsets in the first round because of this. Nick played a little tentative and his opponent refused to make many mistakes. This should be the first of several trips for Nick.
Senior Emily Ellebracht was Mason’s number two girl going into the tournament and well the first match, but met up with a very consistent young lady from Shiner. Emily dropped the first set 6-3 and was down 5-1 in the second before staging a run at her opponent. Emily brought the set back to even at 6-6, but was never able to get a lead. At no time did we have the lead for even one point in the match. That is a tribute to her opponent, but also to Emily for standing ground and fighting. We all knew that she didn’t play her best match of her four year career, but it was a gutty performance.
Kaitlyn Cavness was Mason’s other entry in girls’ singles. The senior entered the tournament as the number one seed and lived up to the expectations of the coaches that put the draws together. There were about six different girls that all had a legitimate shot at winning what was probably the most even draw of the tournament. Kaitlyn dropped only five games through the semi’s including a strong 6-0,6-2 win over Bruni’s Samantha Pena. Pena was a strong hard hitting player that Cavness simply dominated by well placed shots and a much stronger mental game. That game was to be tested in the finals against Knippa’s Caitlin Rothe a three time regional qualifier. The two battled for 2 ½ hours before Cavness watched Rothe’s ball sail long on match point giving her a 6-4,3-6,6-4 win and a trip to Austin.
In boys’ singles, Matt Banner picked up his fourth straight regional championship as he totally dominated his competition throughout the tournament. In the first match against John Aiena of Chester, Matt lost only one point. Then he took another 6-0,6-0 win in the quarters, followed by a 6-0,6-0 win in the semi’s over a strong young freshman from Rocksprings. There was a very touchy moment just prior to the match as during the warm-ups Matt rolled his ankle on a routine overhead. He was given 15 minutes to wrap it and to get back on the court. He continued to hobble throughout the match, but was simply so much stronger than the young man from Rocksprings. Still hobbled in the finals he was to take on last year’s rival and state runner-up, Kennan Dishman of Knippa. Dishman is a very strong super-champ player. We were just hoping Matt wasn’t going to have to default. Instead, the three-time state champion completely dominated the Rockcrusher 6-1,6-0 earning him a shot at his fourth state championship. Throughout Mason’s illustrious tennis background, no one has ever won four straight championships…hopefully this record will also fall this year.
Mason seniors Andy Duarte and Andrew Willis proved why they were the number one seeds as they dominated their competition winning 6-0,6-0 in the first round, 6-1,6-0 in the second round, 6-0,6-2 in the semi’s against who ended the tournament as the third place team (Garcia/Graham of Rocksprings). This set up a rematch of the district finals between Mason and Medina seniors Fertig and Thomas. The Medina boys don’t play a traditional doubles game. They both are very quick with great hands and seem to run down everything, but were unable to run down what Duarte and Willis had to offer as the Puncher duo won 6-2,6-1 and earned both of these young men their second straight trip to Austin. Last year Willis teamed with Paden Hemphill to reach the semis at state while Duarte paired with Trey Schwertner to win the state championship.
Once again Mason simply out-classed it’s completion in girls doubles as both Mason teams earned trips to Austin. The only close match of the tournament for either team was when the sophomore team of Claudia Canfield and Carley Chew defeated Knippa’s Diaz and Shimp in a hard-fought 6-4,4-6,6-2 win in the semi’s. Mason struggled some in the second set and didn’t play as aggressively as they did in the first set, but after the split, the Cowgirls stepped on the court with a new resolve and disposed of Knippa with well placed serves and some good poaches and overheads.
This set up a district rematch between them and the defending state champions, Traci Jordan and Margaret Lemke. Going into the finals, the defending champs had not lost a game and had made short work out of all their matches…proving why they were the top seeds. The finals match had some great points by both teams, but the experience of Jordan/Lemke paid off as they took a 6-2,6-1 win along with the gold medals.
The best match of the day came in mixed doubles as Mason’s Amanda Hudson and Rio Schmidt stepped on the court with the defending state champions from Menard, Taylor Lyckman and Riley Rambo. Hudson and Schmidt had only lost one game through the semi’s but the finals was going to be a nip and tuck affair from the beginning to the end. The Mason team did a great job of returning the dominating serves of the Yellowjacket team. Rio served very well and Amanda played the net as well as she has ever played it as the Mason team picked up a 6-4,7-6 win and a ticket to Austin. This could very well be a match we will see again at state. Mixed doubles has become one of the premier events at state and Mason hasn’t won it since Bailey Blair and Jake Maenius did in 2006, the first year mixed doubles was played.
State will once again be at Lakeway World of Tennis in Austin. Matches begin play at 8:30 on Monday, April 30th with boys’ singles. Girls’ singles will start at 10:15, followed by Boys Doubles at 11:45 and girls’ doubles and mixed at 1:00. Semi-final matches will begin at 2:30 in singles and all boys and girls doubles and mixed to start at 3:30. Times are tentative and can be modified as the tournament progresses. All singles and mixed doubles finals will begin at 9:00 on Tuesday followed by boys and girls doubles around 10:15.
We hope Mason will continue to come out to the state championships and support these young men and women that have worked so hard to achieve this goal.