SAN ANGELO – Sterling City put its stamp on the Region II-1A Tennis Tournament on Tuesday at Bentwood County Club.
Sterling City won the boys and girls doubles titles, each of them coming in memorable three-setters, to highlight a strong showing by Concho Valley schools that included championships by Water Valley and Irion County.
The match of the day was an all-Sterling City girls doubles final in which Kate Barnes and Mia Garcia defended their regional title with a tense 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 win over teammates Kinzee Woods and Brooklyn Gaines.
The match lasted about three hours and was not decided until Barnes and Garcia survived with a 7-2 win in the third-set tiebreaker.
Despite the loss, Woods and Gaines were able to avoid a playback, and both Lady Eagles teams will be advancing to the UIL State Championships on April 26-27 in San Antonio.
They hope to meet in the final of that tournament as well.
Sterling City head coach Wendy Justiss said the two teams have beaten each other multiple times, including a win by Woods and Gaines at the district.
“We knew starting the year that it was going to be a battle between them,” Justiss said. “We sat down and talked about the fact that we had the opportunity to push each other. If we don’t let the animosity get in, and if it can be about making everybody better, then we’re going to 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 mixed doubles state title with Dain Copeland.
Sterling City sophomores Johnny Monreal and Rowdy Ferguson are also returning to state, but they’ll go there as regional champs this time after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Crowell’s Dylan Carney and Brayden Hernandez.
Monreal and Ferguson lost to Crowell last year in the regional final. Crowell’s Carney and Colby Carroll went on to win the state title.
“I put those two guys together last year as freshmen, and they complement each other really well,” Justiss said. “(Ferguson) has got some power, and (Monreal) never hits the ball out.
“Crowell beat Menard (in the regional semifinals Monday), and Menard beat us three weeks ago. So I thought, ‘We’ve got to play really well today,’ and they did. They came out and scrambles and did everything they could. to win the point. “
Carney and Hernandez were able to avoid a playback with a win by Menard’s Roy Brown and Wyatt Terrell in the third-place match.
Irion County and Water Valley ensured it would be a sweep of the doubles titles by Concho Valley schools when they met for the mixed doubles title.
Irion County’s Melanie Rainey and Tayte Cormier rolled to a 6-4, 6-0 win over Water Valley’s Emily Crawford and Tallon Hayes.
Crawford and Hayes were able to avoid a playback thanks to a win in the third-place match by Veribest’s Emily Scott and Konnor Barnes.
Rainey reached the state semifinals last year in girls singles before teaming this spring with Cormier, who is best known for his three straight regional titles in cross country.
In girls singles, Water Valley’s Alyssa Urbantke continued her dominant play with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Buena Vista’s Lexy Alfante.
Urbantke dropped only six games during four matches at the regional tournament.
“I mainly tried to play consistently, but in the end, I gave it my all and played every match like it was my last,” Urbantke said.
It was the first experience at the regional tournament for Urbantke, who took third at the district as a sophomore.
“I was very nervous (before the regional final), but I stayed calm and thought of it as just another match,” Urbantke said. “I’m so excited and so ready for 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 state from girls singles.
In boys singles, Highland’s Tyler Slaton defended his regional title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Grandfalls’ Gavriel Rodriguez.
“It was a lot of pressure for sure, but in the end it just comes down to the mental game. Keep your cool, and you can come back, and that’s what showed,” Slaton said.
Slaton took third place at state last year. He hopes to take in a step farther this year and reach the championship match.
“I’m still really nervous, but I’ve got my mindset changed, so I think I have a better shot this year at controlling my anger,” Slaton said.
Slaton beat Rising Star’s Colt Lawrence 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in the regional semifinals Monday in what proved to be his most difficult match in San Angelo.
Lawrence worked his way back to qualify for the state, however, with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 win over Sterling City’s Shane Pugh in the third-place match, followed by a 6-0, 6-0 win over Rodriguez in the playback.