By KEITH SPARKS
Sophomore tennis players Kennedy Coleman and Gunnar Ortega represented Liberty Hill High School at the 4A Mixed Doubles Tennis State Tournament last Thursday, May 18, in the pair’s first appearance at State.
Coleman was proud of their performance, considering the fact that they were among the youngest competitors at the tournament.
“I thought we played pretty good, especially because we were a less experienced team compared to the others there,” she said.
The 2016-2017 season was Coleman and Ortega’s first season competing as a Mixed Doubles team, giving them a significant disadvantage compared to those that have played together throughout their high school careers.
According to Ortega, the duo’s biggest strides since the season started have come in their improved communication.
“I just think we’ve learned to communicate with each other,” he said. “We’ve made a better connection.”
Coleman and Ortega were bounced in the first round by Chase Daniell and Kelsey James of Wills Point in two sets by scores of 6-3 and 6-2. Despite their first-round loss, Coleman explained that the experience of making it to State as sophomores should give them an advantage moving forward in the form of an increased level of confidence.
“Just getting over the fact that it’s not impossible to win,” she said. “Whenever we got there and saw everyone, they weren’t as great as we expected them to be. It seemed possible to win matches.”
Ortega and Coleman were determined to enjoy the ride, understanding that expectations weren’t incredibly high, considering the fact that the sophomores had only played together for a season and had never been to the State Tournament. They simply wanted to prove that they belonged, and they did.
“Really, we weren’t nervous, because we had never gone before,” Coleman said. “We knew we were young, and it was just a new thing for us to be going. We weren’t really nervous as much about winning as much as we were nervous about if we would play good.”
Ortega’s biggest takeaway from Thursday’s matches was gaining an understanding of the level of competition that takes place at the State Tournament, which he and Coleman both plan on being back for before their Panther careers come to an end.
Daniell and James were bested by Spencer Lin and Ashley Smyser of Abilene Wylie in the second round, who then fell to Broque Constantine and Claire Maxcey of Fredericksburg in the 4A Mixed Doubles State Championship on Friday, May 19.