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HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: Lady Mustangs buck more than 20-year trend to qualify for state - Odessa American: Oavarsity

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HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: Lady Mustangs buck more than 20-year trend to qualify for state

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Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:47 pm

But, after more than two decades, the drought came to an end this spring when three Lady Mustangs qualified for the 4A state tournament, which begins today in College Station.

The girls doubles team of Jenna Oller and Sophia Figueroa took second place at the Region I-4A tournament last month and earned a bid into state. They’ll be joined by the mixed doubles squad of Bry Alviderez and Hesston Montague who also took second at the regional tournament.

“It’s been awesome to see,” Andrews head coach John Armstrong said of the progress the two teams made this year. “We talk about goals all the time and we talk about achieving it all the time. Not just having it in our head, but having it written down, either at home or in your locker. Somewhere you can see it. These kids come from a place where you’re not surrounded by pros and private instructors, so a lot of what they do is just off hard work.”

Seniors Oller and Figueroa have been friends since eighth grade but teamed together on the tennis court for the first time this season For many doubles tandems, it can take time to develop chemistry on the court, but both Figueroa and Oller said that their friendship allowed for an instant connection.

“It was really cool. I usually play singles, so I was a little nervous to play doubles with her,” Oller said. “But being such good friends off the court really helped on the court.”

The duo picked up victories at the regional tournament over teams from Lake Worth, Pampa and Abilene Wylie before losing to Wylie’s top pair of Emily Corn and Analeah Elias in the final.

Alvidrez and Montague clinched their bid in a similar fashion, beating teams from Abilene Wylie, Iowa Park and Midlothian Heritage before falling to another Wylie team of Ashley Smyser and Spencer Lin in the title match.

The state brackets are set up in a fashion that neither Andrews’ team can’t meet either Wylie team until the title match. But neither pair has been looking too much at the bracket. Instead, they’ve spent their time fine tuning their own games in preparation for what are sure to be some strong opponents.

“Coming into the year, we already had trust,” Figueroa said. “We know we have to work hard for each other.”

Alvidrez is the lone junior heading to state for the Mustangs with Montague also in his senior year. Like the girls doubles team, the mixed duo was also paired together for the first time this season. The confidence really began to grow for the tandem after some solid results against Odessa High and Permian in the spring.

“We just have this connection on the court where it seems like we’ve played together longer than we actually have,” Alvidrez said. “I saw how good we did playing against an Odessa team that we usually lose to and thought we could actually do pretty good.”

Armstrong said Montague has been a part of mixed doubles teams for the Mustangs since his freshman year, and has seen him develop quite a bit over the past four years.

“He’s learned to be that aggressive guy on court who is going to control 60 to 70 percent of the court at any given time,” Armstrong said.

The competitive juices have been flowing for both teams as the prepared for this state event. It’s been a month since the regional tournament. So the challenge for Armstrong has been keeping his players sharp with a longer layoff than usual.

“That’s been the hardest thing,” Armstrong said. “We’re looking at four-plus weeks. We’ve tried to balance it with taking some time off. We’ve also tried to counter it with some fun, but have also hammered some of the things we haven’t done well and things we need to work on.”

Many other tennis players from the area will also try to bring back a medal from their respective state tournaments.

At the 3A level, Meagan King and Lindsey Richards from Crane will begin the girls doubles tournament with a match against a team from Leonard.

In 2A, Wink will have C.J. Mercier competing in the boys singles bracket. He opens with Robert Blue of Bosqueville. Jonnah Smith will be in the girls singles tournament for the Lady Wildcats and has an opening round match against Haleigh Dollins from Hawkins.

In 1A, a pair of mixed doubles team will have a good shot a title. Ethen Evans and Kathleen Sheehan of Buena Vista will open with a team from Knippa, while Troy Hernandez and Yani Ponce from Fort Davis will play a team from Leakey.

Odessa, TX

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