HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: Sanchez ready for state tournament

For Fort Stockton senior Darryn Sanchez, the feeling took awhile to sink in.
Sanchez had just defeated Nicolas Villalovos of Hereford, 7-6 (9), 7-5, to capture the Boys Singles title at the Region I-4A Championships, but it wasn’t until he was receiving his award that it all finally started to become crystal clear that Sanchez was going to play at the state championships.
“There was so much going through my head,” Sanchez said. “It was crazy. I wasn’t thinking about much. I was just worried about each match, point by point.
“Everything just hit me at once. I couldn’t believe that I had won it, to be honest. I think it hit me when I finally got my medal.”
It’s the first time that Sanchez has qualified for the state championships and he’ll look to make the most as play gets underway at 8 a.m. Thursday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station.
Sanchez is the second Fort Stockton tennis player in the last three years to qualify for state, following in the footsteps of former teammate Joseph Diaz (2017).
“Just seeing how much work and dedication (Diaz) put in just to get to where he needed to be and if I want to do well at state, I knew that I was going to have to work harder and harder,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez began the regional tournament with a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Levelland’s Evan Thongvanh and then defeated San Elizario’s David Garcia, 6-1, 6-1, in the quarterfinals.
A 6-1, 7-5 victory against Argyles Mark Mirelez moved him to the championship match against Villalovos,
“It was crazy being the only kid from Fort Stockton while (Villalovos) had his whole team there,” Sanchez said. “I felt alone. But the match was pretty close. It was a good match, I was just glad that I was able to pull through.”
“It means everything to me,” Sanchez said. “Just going to regionals felt great and seeing one of our players make it two years ago and now for me to get to go, it’s just a dream come true.”
Sanchez will take on Lamar Fulshear’s Victor Nguyen in the first round, with the winner advancing to face either Siddhartha Movva (Uplift North Hills Prep) or Juan Gonzalez (Center) in the semifinals later on Thursday. The championship is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday.
“I just know that the competition is going to be a lot higher,” Sanchez said. “I’m going to have to train much harder than I have in the past and be ready for anything. That’s all I can do.”
He finds himself on the opposite side of the bracket as the two-time defending 4A boys singles champion Ryan Koth of Boerne.
“We feel like we have a great draw,” Fort Stockton head tennis coach Patric Walsh said. “We’ve been given an opportunity if we can take advantage of it. We’re going to look at the first match and see where we can go on next.”
As for anyone, winning state is the ultimate goal but Sanchez is concerned about making it out of the first round and then going from there.
“All I’m really trying to do is get past the first round,” he said. “That’s really it. I’m just trying to get past the first round and if I do, I’d like to get to the championship, of course. But I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
His regional championship wasn’t the only accomplishment of the season as Sanchez was awarded the West Texas Tennis Association (WTTA) Junior Athlete of the Season Award last week, an honor that caught him off guard.
“It was crazy considering that I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Sanchez said. “It was cool to receive it. It means a lot to me and knowing that my name is up there and that people knew that I was deserving of the award.”
As for life after high school, Sanchez remains undecided on a school.
“I was looking at Hardin Simmons, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and the University of the Southwest,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been looking at those. I’ve had other coaches contact me. But those are the three main schools I want to go to.”
He also remains undecided on a major but he’s looking to continue his tennis career.
“I don’t really know yet,” Sanchez said. “I want to do something with tennis like go into coaching or something like that.”
But as he prepares for his state showing, his coach is optimistic about his chances.
“We’re facing a good kid from the Houston-area in the first round,” Walsh said. “But I feel like we came out of a good regional. Over the years, we’ve had success at state and this year, we’d like to have another successful year by preparing well. Getting to the state championship is the culmination of years of preparation.”
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