Third in state team tennis Goats final destination
In a classic match that defines what the ultimate potential of team tennis is, the Groesbeck Goats beat Reagan County 10-9 for third place in the state tennis tournament in San Antonio March 8-9. It was the best finish ever by a Groesbeck team, and the first one coached by Dusty Loewe in the three years he has been head coach of the Goats.
It often gets talked about that in some team tennis matches where all 14 players on a team have a chance to contribute to a win, that the fate of the team lies in the hands and racket play of one of the girls singles players on a team. That’s exactly what happened in Groesbeck’s match with the Reagan County Owls to determine third place in the tournament. The two teams had begun doubles play with the Goat girls winning all those matches and the Owl boys and Owl mixed doubles team winning all those matches. The Owls had the lead in the potential 19 match competition 4-3.
Then the boys six singles matches began. The two teams split three apiece on those maintaining Reagan County’s one point lead 7-6. If the Goats were to win third place, it would be up to the six girls singles team to make it happen. Hannah DeFriend pulled the Goats into a tie with her win. But Andrea Smith was beaten by her Owl opponent to put the Goats trailing again 7-8. Groesbeck crept back in front 9-8 as McKenzie Carroll and Mackenzee Lowther won the next two matches. But Leanna Walpole dropped her match as the #5 Goat player to put the outcome of winning third place in the hands of #6 girls singles players freshman Emily Menzel for Groesbeck and Shyann Darr of Reagan County.
Menzel was up to the challenge as she met Darr’s volleys and won 8-1. With the two and a half hour time limit looming and the match being for third place, pro set scoring of the first player to eight points wins. When Menzel put away Darr, the other 13 Goat players were courtside and erupted in a round of celebration
Groesbeck had gotten to the third-place match after winning twice on Friday in a three-hour weather-delayed contest in which the teams all played under the short set format with the score being 2-2 to start the best two out of three matches instead of the 0-0 normal play. The Goats handled the first opponent, Sonora with ease winning 11-0. The girls doubles teams of DeFriend and Lowther, Smith and Walpole and Carroll and Lindsey Flusche prevailed as did the boys doubles teams of Colby McWhorter and Riley Malloy, Cason Killingsworth and Hayden Mills and Shane Kirk andTtrent Lowe. Finishing off the doubles wins were the mixed doubles team, the brother-sister duo of Trevor Menzel and Emily Menzel.
The win set Groesbeck up to play one of the powerhouses in UIL sports Friday afternoon, Brock. The Brock boys basketball team was also in San Antonio playing for a state championship on Saturday. ( they lost to Dallas Madison.) Two weeks earlier, the Brock girls basketball team had lost to Wall, another team tennis state finalist, in the regional girls' finals. Those two strong finishes in basketball will propel Brock into the lead in the 2019-Class 3A Lone Star Cup standings. The Goats were more than up to the challenge as they handled Brock nearly as easily as they did Sonora, by a 13-6 margin.
The three boys doubles teams for Groesbeck all won their matches over Brock. The girls' doubles team of Smith and Walpole lost to their Brock counterpart as did the mixed doubles Menzel team. The top three boys singles team of McWhorter, Malloy and Killingworth won their matches. In the girls singles, DeFriend, Smith, Carroll, Lowther, and Menzel won their matches for the 13-6 win.
The win Friday evening set the stage for Groesbeck to play the eventual champion, Mason. Again weather slowed down the starting time, but only by an hour on Saturday. DeFriend and McWhorter won their singles matches over Mason’s number one singles players. DeFriend ousted Kate Gillespie -3, 1 and 10-5. McWhorter took care of Matthew Kerr 3 and 5.. Those were the only two losses sustained by the Punchers in any of their matches on the way to winning state.
Coach Loewe commented about the tournament extensively, “Losing to Mason was like playing against a 5A or 6A team. But we did get more wins on them than anyone else in the tournament. It was a big win beating Brock to get to the semifinals. They are so talented in so many sports.”
About the Goats, Loewe continued, “all 14 of our players made big wins in getting us to third place. Three of our players went 7-1 in their singles matches, Lowther, DeFriend and McWhorter. With us battling the two and half hour time limit per match against each school, we scrambled to get to the 10 win goal and then get ready for our next match.”
When school resumes Monday, March 18, two things will happen at the Groesbeck tennis courts. First, the Goats will begin practicing for the UIL season and trying to make it back to state again. Secondly, Coach Loewe had promised the team that if they brought home a medal from San Antonio, he would let the team shave his head. So he is bringing clippers from home for the ceremony. But after that, it’s all business. Loewe closed by saying, “I hope to have all 14 players qualify for the UIL state meet.”