by Hale Hughes
On Monday and Tuesday, April 17 and 18, the Woodville High School tennis team competed at the Region III-3A tournament at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station. The teams that competed for the Eagles were Eli Shirley and Trevor Vardeman in boy's doubles, Caleb Powell and A.J. Worsley in boy's doubles, Yoselin and Leslie Miranda in girl's doubles, and Cameron Coker and Lyndsey Kinard in mixed doubles.
The boy's doubles teams bowed out in a tough first round, losing to #4 seed East Bernard and #3 seed McGregor.
"I thought we played good matches in both. Our energy level and play was good. We had few unforced errors and didn't give them many easy points. They were just better than us that day," said head tennis coach Tyler Word, in his first year at the helm of the Woodville tennis program. The Miranda twins played the #3 seeded team from Franklin and lost a tight three set match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Word was proud as he spoke of both Yoselin and Leslie's match and the effort they gave. "This was a tough loss because the Franklin girls breezed through to the finals and should have won the championship being up 6-1, 5-2. That tells you how close we were to advancing. That's just bad luck in the draws to get them first round. The girls fought hard as they have all year and I am so proud of them. The match just came down to a few points."
The mixed doubles team of Coker and Kinard were given the #2 seed going into the tournament with a 21-1 record. They breezed through the first two round by beating Westwood and Brazos with scores of 6-0, 6-0. The semifinal round they met an all too familiar opponent in #3 seed Kirbyville . They came in with a 2-1 record against them with all the matches this year being close ones, and this one proved to be a dandy as well. Coker and Kinard prevailed over the Wildcat duo in three sets with a 6-7 , 6-3, 6-1 win. "We knew coming into this that it was going to be a tough match," said Word. "Kirbyville played lights out in the first set and early in the second, making very few unforced errors. After the first set I told them that we were not playing bad, we just weren't being aggressive enough." Word continued, "We weren't sticking our volleys and we were giving them too many second chance opportunities. We came out playing a little conservative while Kirbyville was dictating play." Word reiterated to his team that it would take a more concentrated effort than that as he continued. "Anytime you are playing a team that is playing that well, you must end the points early." Coker and Kinard responded to Word's advice and that's what they did in the next two sets to take down Kirbyville.
In the championship match, Woodville's lone team of Coker and Kinard would match up with the #1 seeded team from Rockdale. Rockdale was the runner up in state last year so Word, Coker and Kinard all knew that this would prove to be a tough test. They played well, but lost the first set in a very close margin, 6-4. Word spoke about that great first set and the match. "This entire match came down to a few points," he said. "We played well in the first set and had a break point at 4-4 which would give us the lead on Cameron's serve. After losing that first set, we seemed to lose momentum and Rockdale seized on that and closing out the second and deciding set 6-0." Word never stopped analyzing while thinking of ways to help his mixed doubles team as they go forward. He said, "We've got to do a better job of not having a let-down anytime we lose a long deuce game like that. They knocked the air out of us and it just snowballed on us after that." With Coker and Kinard's second place finish, they will be advancing to the 3A state tennis tournament that will be held at Texas A&M University in College Station on May 18 and 19. Word was excited, but reserved as he gave his final thoughts on his senior duo playing in the state tournament. "We honestly have a great chance to make it to the finals. That said, we still have a lot of work to do this month to clean up on some things, but I know Cam and Lyndsey are up for the task and will work hard to ensure that they are prepared for the challenge that awaits us at state." This is Coker's second consecutive year to qualify for the state tournament, advancing last year in the boys' doubles team and his experience from last year should prove to be highly beneficial and a huge advantage for the Eagle team.