As the UIL state tennis tournament begins serve from Class 6A to 1A on Tuesday morning in San Antonio, the Texas Panhandle will be led by seven players making their third straight appearance on the various courts around the Alamo City.
Those players are all seniors now and saw their freshman tennis season wiped out by COVID. How many may have been making their fourth straight appearance will never be known but it’s a talented group that includes Eleanor Archer and Morgan Rose of Amarillo High, Ethan Ruppanner of Tascosa, K’Linda Mason of Hereford, Camden Sperry of Happy, Carson Heiman of Nazareth and Ali Friemel from Groom. They are a part of the 31 total players embarking on a state title quest.
All the action begins at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning across three various sites – Blossom Tennis Center, Annemarie Tennis Center, Northside Tennis Center – in San Antonio.
Amarillo High highlights 5A tennis tourney
Any discussion in this class begins and ends with Archer. The Washington University in St. Louis signee has won two titles previously. She teamed with Jackson Harwell in 2021 for a mixed doubles title and last year became the first girl in AISD history to take a girl’s single title. She now pairs up with Morgan Rose, who has been to state the past two years in girls’ doubles with different partners to try and capture a rare feat of three titles in three different events. Amarillo High head coach Koby Otto would love for the girls doubles final to be all Lady Sandies as Allex Gonzales makes her second straight appearance, teaming up with Karli Lakey, in search of a title. Kelton Brown and Wade Bryant from Amarillo High bring a bag full of experience with them as they will be considered contenders in the boys’ doubles bracket. For Ethan Ruppanner he’s trying to break through in one of the toughest brackets there is in boys’ singles having lost in the quarters and semis in prior years.
Randall sends seven to state
Hot off their team title in the fall, head coach Darby Norman at Randall brings a carload of players in search of more gold. Carson Dyess and Aidan Gilbert pose a formidable threat in boys doubles while Ella Hester, who is signed with Texas A&M-Kingsville, will be a tough out in girls singles. Norman will also be looking for an all-Lady Raider final in the girls doubles as the Region 1-4A champs in Kenley Craddock and Landrey Posey will be joined by Kaitlyn Craddock and Elizabeth Hollabaugh.
In mixed doubles the record setting team of Scout Adams and Parker Steinman, the first ever West Plains tennis players to make the state tournament, has a legitimate shot to make their mark as the first ever team to win a state title. On the other side of the bracket is Mason, a state champion last year with Nicolas Villalovos, and her partner Brandon Ysaguirre who lost close matches to Adams and Steinman in the finals at both district and regionals. Also, at state, is the Pampa duo of Mason Bagwell and Terry Ketchum. Bagwell made the semis in mixed doubles last year and will be looking to go one step further this year.
Garnett is lone Texas Panhandle 3A participant
Spearman’s Jeb Garnett captured the Regional I-3A singles title as the third seed entering the tournament and will look to keep surprising people in San Antonio. What Garnett pulled off was rare as he becomes the first player in the area in 3A to make the tournament since Jaxton Hoelting and Tanner Hooper from Tulia teamed up in doubles in 2017 and you have to go back 17 years to 2006 in boys singles to find a player from this area when Scott Milner of Borger made the finals.
Nazareth carries six to state
Heiman is one of six Nazareth players at state. The talented senior, who qualified the last two years with his mixed doubles partner Harley Gerber, was pushed into boys’ doubles with Tanner Wethington after Gerber tore her ACL late in the basketball season. Heiman who has lost in the semi’s the last two years, would love nothing better than to reach the finals. Joining Heiman is the talented mixed doubles pairing of Iris Schilderink and Caysen High. Chloe Birkenfeld and Taylor Wethington, Tanner’s younger sister, will also look to make noise in girls doubles.
For Camden Sperry, he hopes his third time to state is the charm. Having lost in the quarters as a sophomore and last year in the semis, the hard-hitting Cowboy will be looking to make school history by winning the first ever boys singles title. In the girls’ singles bracket, Friemel has dropped matches in the semis the last two years and will hope to make the next step to finish on top. Ali Friemel will be joined by the doubles pairing of Blayne and Bryson Schuck. The athletic duo will hope to meet Heiman and Wethington in the finals in a rematch of their semifinal match at regionals.