Unlike last year, Clear Springs High School’s Aava Azad and Melody Duong are supposed to be where they are now, one win away from the University Interscholastic League Class 6A state tennis tournament.
After another long rain delay, Azad and Duong picked up two more wins on Wednesday to advance to today’s 3 p.m. girls’ doubles final at the Region III-6A tennis championships at Deer Park High School’s south campus.
Azad and Duong, seeded No. 2, will face Cypress Falls’ No. 1-seeded Rylee Braeden and Polina Radchenko, with the winner earning an automatic berth in next month’s state meet in College Station.
“It feels relaxing,” Azad said following the Chargers’ 6-4, 6-1 semifinal win over Kingwood’s Madison Bezner and Lauren Legg.
Earlier in the day, Azad and Duong, surprise regional finalists in 2016, knocked off Katy Cinco Ranch’s Megan Baxter and Victoria Gillooly in the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3.
Midway through the second set against Baxter and Gillooly, Azad and Duong trailed 3-0. But the Chargers answered with six straight games to claim the straight-set victory.
“I think that’s one of our strong points,” Duong said of the second-set comeback against Cinco Ranch. “We just take it one point at a time.”
Azad and Duong faced Braeden and Radchenko in January at the Fort Bend Tournament, letting an early 4-1 lead in the first set slip away into a 7-5, 6-0 loss.
“We were up on them,” Azad said, looking back at the first matchup. “This time we have to get the momentum and keep it.”
While Azad and Duong are battling for a return trip to state, still in the running despite semifinal losses are Clear Falls’ Reed Collier in the boys’ singles and Clear Creek’s Carter Crookston and Alejandra Lopez in the mixed doubles.
Collier, seeded No. 3, held on to beat Cinco Ranch’s Brian Wan in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, but dropped a 6-1, 6-2 semifinal decision to Pearland Dawson’s No. 1-seeded Kevin Zhu.
“I don’t think the three-setter hurt Reed,” Clear Falls coach Keller Akin said after the loss to Zhu. “This was the first time he played a much-talented player like Kevin. That kid’s good.”
Against Wan, “After we split sets, I found my game and kind of starting getting my rhythm and focus back,” Collier said.
Collier, who entered regionals on a five-tournament win streak, now drops into today’s 3 p.m. third-place match against Richmond George Ranch’s No. 4-seeded Marc Maciel, with hopes of a possible playback match.
The same holds true for Crookston and Lopez, the No. 4 seeds, who overcame a shutout in the first set against Fort Bend Clements’ Emily Guse and Ethan Ni for an 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win.
But in the semifinals, Crookston and Lopez lost to Cypress Ranch’s No. 1-seeded Melissa Lamett and Varun Thachil 6-1, 6-3.
Crookston and Lopez will play Katy Seven Lakes’ No. 2-seeded Sabrina Barboza and Allen Chen, shocking three-set semifinal losers to Clear Brook’s Maria Herrera and Andres Padilla.
Meanwhile, dropping a heartbreaker in the boys’ doubles quarterfinals was Friendswood’s No. 4-seeded Ethan Bui and Johnny Luu.
Bui and Luu were upset by Houston Lamar’s Braden Ho and Vesko Lekovic 6-2, 6-3.
“We did not play well,” Mustangs coach David Cook said afterward. “(Lamar) came out loose and firing, and we did not respond. The momentum was on their side, and we struggled.
“They hit through us, and we didn’t hit many first serves or returns. When we fail doing those two things, we can’t move at the net like we want to.”
In other tournament action, Clear Creek’s girls’ doubles team of Sydney Albro and Ava Manuel lost to Seven Lakes’ Kathryn Sturgis and Isabella Wiik 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.
Over at the Region III-5A Championships in Willis, both Texas City doubles entries recorded an opening-round win before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The Stings’ mixed tandem of Sandra Rayas and Seth Rogers defeated Houston Northside’s Edwin Benavides and Melanie Espinosa in the first round, 6-0, default, but lost to Cedar Park’s No. 2-seeded Layne Johnson and Kylee Ramsey 6-1, 6-0.
Also, Texas City’s girls’ doubles team of Esly Mendoza and Ana Ramirez lost to College Station A&M Consolidated’s Kylee Markowsky and Hannah Tindall 6-2, 6-0.