Friendswood High School is no stranger to the Region III tournament when it comes to team tennis.
Except now it’s as a competitor in Class 6A, with this year being the first time in school history the Mustangs have advanced to this classification’s regional quarterfinals, today facing state-ranked Humble Kingwood.
“The furthest we had advanced in three previous 6A appearances was last year, when we got to the second round,” said Friendswood head coach David Cook, who as a Class 4A and later 5A participant has watched his Mustangs come close to reaching the state tournament, three times just one win away as a regional finalist in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Now playing with the big boys and girls and already having beaten Richmond George Ranch in the bi-district round, 10-4, and Deer Park in the area round, 12-0, Friendswood finds itself three wins away from reaching the ultimate 6A tournament.
“Our kids are excited to play Kingwood,” Cook said, looking forward to the 4 p.m. showdown at Deer Park High School’s south campus.
Kingwood enters the matchup as Region III’s No. 7-ranked team and state’s No. 22. But the Mustangs are right behind at No. 8 regionally and No. 24 statewide.
“It seems like we always schedule Kingwood each season but end up having to cancel because of the weather,” Cook said. “It has been three or four years since we actually got to play them, and I cannot wait to find out where we stack up against them.
“We know they are good, but it’s exciting to beat good teams.”
Kingwood is coming off a hard-fought 10-6 area-round win over District 24-6A champion Clear Creek, the same team that beat the Mustangs in league play, 11-8.
“Basically, it seems like our teams and record stand pretty comparable,” Cook said. “The only known difference is (Kingwood) beat Clear Creek last week, while we lost to Clear Creek a few weeks ago, albeit shorthanded in our lineup.
“I feel like we have pretty close to a coin flip situation, and that means the difference in the match will come down to the details.”
Kingwood capitalized on its girls’ lineup depth against Clear Creek, and that side of the court is certainly one of Friendswood’s strengths, especially after getting Nina Gonzalez back after an untimely injury.
Quinn Radtke will hold down the Mustang girls’ No. 1 singles position, followed by Maura Mitchell at No. 2, Gonzalez at No. 3, Emily King at No. 4, Alex Reyes at No. 5 and Maddie Coburn at No. 6.
As for the Friendswood boys singles, Ethan Bui will man No. 1, followed in order by Race Haas, Natan Bondin, Noah Smistad, Alex Wachowicz and Adric Christensen.
Looking back, Cook is pleased with his team’s steady progress entering today’s matchup.
“We survived our match with George Ranch but didn’t play our best overall,” Cook said. “We weren’t as sharp as I hoped for.”
But, “We made up for it Thursday against Deer Park,” he added. “All of our team looked extremely on-point, demonstrating full mastery of what we have been working on all season.
“I was very happy with the attention to detail and the aggressiveness we showed. We will have to bring that high level back to Deer Park.”
The Friendswood-Kingwood winner next will take on either Region III-6A favorite Cypress Ranch or Katy Tompkins in Thursday’s regional semifinals at Deer Park High School.
“I expect both teams to play well (today) and am hopeful we can find a way to finish on top,” Cook said.
REGION III-6A TEAM TENNIS QUARTERFINALS
Friendswood vs. Humble Kingwood at 4 p.m. today at Deer Park High School South.