Advancing to a state tournament can be seen as the pinnacle for high school athletes, regardless of the sport.
This week, tennis takes center court as 19 Texoma athletes will compete at the state tournament at Texas A&M in College Station with the quarterfinals and semifinals on Thursday.
Starting in Class 3A, Whitewright’s Juliann Kelley will be competing in the state tournament for the third straight year —her second in singles. She competed with her sister Jamie in doubles in 2016 as a freshman.
This time around, she faces Abby Alexander of Wall in the quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning and she’s ready to put on a good showing.
“I definitely feel like I’ve improved and gained more confidence each year that I’ve gone,” Kelley said. “I love going to Texas A&M and I’m looking forward to going back again this year.”
Also in 3A, Leonard will be sending three to the state tournament — one individual and one girls doubles team. Freshman Kenna Kelley will face Kelsey Riddle from Tuscola Jim Ned at 9:30 a.m.
“She’s very talented for a freshman,” Leonard head coach Lisa Davis said. “She has a lot of poise, is skillful and is just really excited for the opportunity to go to state.”
In girls’ doubles, senior Alyssa Davis and junior Kinley Spear will face the team of Megan Collazo Jessica Matott from Ingram Moore in their first match.
Davis will be making her second trip to state and Spear will be making her first. That quarterfinal is scheduled to start at noon and the duo has developed a strong connection during their first year playing together.
“Kinley and I both complement each other very well,” Davis said. “She’s really good in her technique and I feel more comfortable up front and be aggressive towards the net. It’s definitely what helps us the most out there.”
In other 3A action, the boys’ doubles team of Scott Gautier and Caleb McCoy of Whitesboro will face Braden Baade and William Deal of Franklin at 10:30 a.m. It is Gautier’s third trip to state and first in boys doubles. He was a semifinalist last spring in mixed doubles.
In mixed doubles, Janea Larriviere and Noah Tormos of Van Alstyne will face Brian VanWinkle and Peyton Matthews of Sonora at 1:30 p.m. The VA duo were quarterfinalists last spring.
In Class 2A, Bells is sending three athletes to College Station — Dustin and Meagan Hardin in mixed doubles and Zoe Sprayberry in girls singles. The Hardins, who were quarterfinalists a year ago, face Casey Dudney and Ryli Ruffin of Mason at 1:30 p.m. while Sprayberry faces Kea Sandoval of Olton at 9:30 a.m.
The Blue Ridge Tigers are sending four athletes to state — the most from any Texoma school and are all first-time state qualifiers.
Ellery Martin and Shelby Gerner will face Blair Brunson and Taylor Westerfeld of Crawford in their quarterfinal matchup on Thursday. For Gerner, it will be her final tournament being a graduating senior and that makes her partner motivated to try and go out on top.
“I’m excited to go play together with Shelby,” Martin said. “It’s our last time that we’ll play together. We’ve gone to regionals the last two years and so it’s exciting to finally get to go this year.”
The other doubles team that Blue Ridge is sending features junior Nolan Henderson and Jared Stroman. They will face the team of Dusty Hughey and Kaison Kirkland from Panhandle.
“It’s really exciting,” Stroman said. “It took a moment to set in that we were going after we won regionals but it feels really, really good.”
“It’s definitely exciting to go to state and break through this year,” Henderson said. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking but I’m just looking forward to the experience and taking it all in.”
One other doubles team competing in College Station comes from Wolfe City as Ki Northcutt and Erin Moore face Haley Vaughn and Ana Maddox of Crawford.
In Class 1A, the boys mixed doubles team of J.B. Johnston and Nathan Essary of Ector will take on Jake and Slade Gerber of Nazareth at 11 a.m.
The other qualifier in 1A is the girls doubles team of Brittany Barnett and Destini Maness from Tioga. They will face DezaRae Gonzales and Tina Ruiz of Utopia at 12:30 p.m.