All good things must come to an end, even for Clear Brook High School’s Maria Herrera and Andres Padilla.
After two nerve-racking wins, the Wolverines’ fortunes turned sour on Friday, losing in the mixed doubles final of the University Interscholastic League Class 6A Tennis State Championships to Cypress Ranch’s Melissa LaMette and Varun Thachil 6-4, 6-3.
“I enjoyed every moment of it,” Herrera said after the championship match played at Texas A&M University’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. “District, regionals, state, I was enjoying it so much.”
Herrera and Padilla had beaten Houston Memorial and Austin Vandegrift the day before, both with dramatic three-set comebacks.
But a third straight come-from-behind victory was not in the works against Cy-Ranch, the Region III champions who had beaten the Wolverines a month earlier in that tournament final, 6-4, 6-4.
“Age and experience was in their favor,” Clear Brook co-head coach Jarrett Smith said of LaMette and Thachil. “Melissa was here last year, and they had confidence over us having beaten us at regionals.”
LaMette and Thachil jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set, but the Wolverines answered back with three straight games of their own, breaking Thachil’s serve before holding Herrera’s to even the count at 3-3.
“I told them at 0-3 they’ve been in this spot before, getting down in the first set, even getting down a set,” Smith said.
The two teams exchanged service breaks in the eighth and ninth games before Cy-Ranch broke again in the 10th game, Thachil rifling a backhand down the line on game point to force an error and give his team the first set.
Then, in the second set, both teams held serve until the sixth game when Cy-Ranch broke and later held for a 5-2 advantage.
Herrera kept her team’s hopes alive with a strong service game to pull to within 5-3, but Cy-Ranch responded with a love game on LaMette’s serve, Thachil hammering an overhead into the upper-deck bleachers on match point.
“Going into the match, we didn’t have anything to lose,” Herrera said. “(LaMette and Thachil) are really good tennis players, and we gave it all we had.”
“I think we came out flat in those first few games,” Padilla said. “We really couldn’t get anything going until it was too late. It was awesome just to get here.”
Smith was especially pleased for Padilla since this was his senior year.
“I told Andres when he got third place at district (in singles), that we were going to get him to regionals,” Smith said. “I didn’t know he’d end up getting second at state. He deserves it.
“But I’m happy for both players. Making it to state was an accomplishment, so anything extra was icing on the cake. It was a good match and a good tournament for them. We didn’t let (Cy-Ranch) take it away from us. We competed well.”
Smith quickly added with a proud smile, “We enjoyed the moment.”