Prior to enrolling at Compass Academy, Neena Mendez’s experience playing competitive tennis was limited to training sessions and competing for junior teams between the ages of 11 and 14.
In her first year as a varsity tennis player for the Lady Cougars, she’s made her mark.
Mendez became Compass Academy’s first ever regional tennis qualifier after winning her second place playback match, 6-1, 6-1, against Crane’s Alexys Suarez at the conclusion of the District 5-3A Tournament April 6 in Big Lake.
Up next for her is the Region I-3A Tournament, which begins Monday and continues Tuesday at the Rose Park Tennis Center in Abilene.
“This is our first year at tennis and it feels pretty good,” Mendez said. “It feels great that I could help my school to be known. Our school is really small and nobody really knows us from other schools.”
Mendez added that she felt nervous heading into her first district tournament but gained more confidence as the tournament went on.
When she made it to the final, she admitted that she got in her own head and ended up falling, 6-4, 6-0, to Hernandez. As Mendez prepared for the playback, she knew she had to be in a stronger frame of mind and stay focused if she wanted to advance.
“Tennis is mainly a mental sport,” Mendez said. “When you go on the court, you have to have a good mind.”
Compass Academy tennis coach Brooke Chambers also helped Mendez when she was struggling on the court, reminding her to look around and remember how hard she had worked to get to that point.
“She was very quick to try and give me the credit, so I had to remind her that I can show them the way but I can’t make them do it,” Chambers said. “She did it, she did the work.”
For her father, David Mendez, seeing his daughter qualify for a regional tournament on the courts he once played on was a proud moment. He grew up in Stanton, playing district tournaments in Big Lake and said tennis has helped his family through some tough moments.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” he said. “That was the district I grew up in. It’s a special feeling for dad because we’ve been through a lot as a family, so tennis has been a blessing to all of us.”
Neena is one of six siblings in her family and was homeschooled prior to enrolling at Compass Academy. The junior said that playing at the varsity level has been beneficial to her and also has an eye on the future as she finishes her junior year and continues to work towards her goal of playing at the collegiate level.
Her head coach believes that if she keeps working for it, she can accomplish her goal.
“Whether it’s here at home at UTPB or even getting a scholarship somewhere else,” Chambers said. “She definitely has the ability and puts in hours of work a day. If she keeps at it, there’s no reason she can’t.
I told her I’ll support her all the way through.”
Neena’s father hopes that she hopes that she continues to play after high school but ultimately added it was her decision.
“She’s got the rest of this year, the summer and all of next year,” David said. “At the end of the day, she’s got to want it. I can give her the right tools and advice, but she’s got to want it to play at the next level.”
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Regional Tennis Qualifiers
Girls Singles: Sarah Stewart, Midland High
Boys Singles: Tyler Stewart, Midland High
Mixed Doubles: Connor Carriger and Montserrat Salazar, Midland High
Girls Singles: Paulina Morales, Seminole; Aubren Jeppesen, Andrews
Boys Singles: Jathan Slaughter, Andrews; Justin Giesbrecht, Seminole
Girls Doubles: Lauren Smith and Marcela Guevara, Seminole; Jenyfer Argumedo and Kaitlin Argabright, Andrews;
Boys Doubles: Julio Cortes and Jairo Ontiveros, Andrews; Daniel Fehr and Danni Klassen, Seminole
Mixed Doubles: Justin Nguyen and Shyanne Durham, Andrews; Chris Curry and Mia Martinez, Andrews
Girls Singles: Neena Mendez, Compass Academy; Alexys Suarez, Crane; Sarah Romero, Alpine; Adayna Garcia, Alpine
Boys Singles: Esteban Ramos, Alpine; Zane Billings, Alpine
Girls Doubles: Zaydie Pando and Larisa Quiroz, Kemrmit; Kylie Garcia and Lily Terrazas, Alpine
Boys Doubles: Jay Rogers and Zee Connally, Kermit; Zaniel Florez and Yosmar Acevedo, Kermit; Ertugrul Baskbuyuk and Jared Cobos, Alpine; Oliver Cervantes and Renaldo Cervantes, Crane
Mixed Doubles: Itzel Franco and Derek Schweierjohn, Alpine; Omar Gomez and Anna Lissette Rayos, Kermit; Javi Carrasco and Casey Dunscomb, Crane
Girls Singles: Kate Ramirez, Wink
Girls Doubles: Lexie Sonnier and Kalyn Warren, Wink
Boys Doubles: Grabiel Muniz and Myah Torres, Wink
Girls Singles: Maite Morales, Fort Davis; Mirande Valenzuela, Fort Davis; Melissa Rodriguez, Buena Vista
Boys Singles: Sean Orozco, Balmorhea; Braeden Dutchover, Fort Davis; Jaxon Wyatt, Rankin
Girls Doubles: Alex Granado and Kayden Gray, Fort Davis; Amaya Garibay and Ivette Bermudez, Van Horn; Carysn Evans and Ireland Sanchez, Buena Vista; Kylie Chesser and Taylor Jurado, Grandfalls-Royalty
Boys Doubles: Elijah Jefferson and Xavier Mendoza, Balmorhea; Alexis Navarette and Alex Abraham, Balmorhea; Tanner Ward and Jayden Huertas, Buena Vista
Mixed Doubles: Jillianna Reyes and Ethan Villanueva, Balmorhea; Faith Boultinghouse and Edgar Lara, Fort Davis; Adriana Rodriguez and Chris Miller, Grandfalls-Royalty