For the second year in a row, Clear Creek’s Carter Crookston is playing for a University Interscholastic League Class 6A state championship.
After finishing runner-up in boys doubles last year with partner Michael Raji, Crookston earned a berth in today’s singles final with a pair of wins Thursday, including a 6-2, 6-3 semifinal victory over The Woodlands’ Garrett Skelly.
Crookston first beat Austin Westlake’s Daniel French in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-3.
Next up for Crookston, the District 24 and Region III champion, is San Antonio Reagan’s Kyle Totorica at 8:30 a.m. at Texas A&M University’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
Meanwhile, Clear Springs’ Alli Schwartz made a glowing debut as a freshman, winning her first match before succumbing to Austin Lake Travis’ Megha Dania in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-2.
However, opening day was not as kind to both of Friendswood’s doubles entries, as the boys’ Race Haas/Noah Smistad and the girls’ Maura Mitchell/Quinn Radtke bowed out in the quarterfinals.
In Crookston’s semifinal win over Skelly, the Wildcat junior raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set before Skelly rallied to within 4-3.
At that point, Crookston took charge and never looked back, overcoming a 0-30 deficit with four straight points to hold his serve in the eighth game before breaking Skelly thanks to a deep overhead winner and a crosscourt forehand winner.
Then, on match point, Crookston hit a forehand off the baseline too tough for Skelly to handle to send him into the championship match.
“We talked about finishing matches, and that crept into his mind a little bit,” Clear Creek head tennis coach Derick Geise said. “But Carter went back to the basics and seemed to finish off the last couple of games doing that.”
Geise said Crookston played “much better” in the semifinals.
“Carter came out tight in the first match but was focused in from the get go to get him going against Skelly,” Geise said.
Today’s final will be a rematch of an earlier semifinal between Crookston and Totorica at the Kemah Boardwalk Invitational, won by Crookston in an 11-9 third-set super-tiebreaker.
“Totorica’s just a grinder,” Geise said. “He has an unorthodox-type swing but hits angles really well.”
As for Schwartz, she dominated Duncanville’s Daniela Padron-Castillo in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-1, but had problems with “moonballs” Dania delivered throughout in the semifinals.
“Alli was in her comfort zone in her morning match but wasn’t ready to grind out 30 to 40 balls in her semifinal,” Clear Springs head coach Gregg Parker said. “From point one, (Dania) would hit these 20-foot moonballs and was very good at it.
“But I’m pretty happy with the way Alli handled herself as a freshman. She just has to be ready for adversities like today.”
With the win over Padron-Castillo, Schwartz became the first-ever Charger tennis player to reach the state semifinals and win a bronze medal.
In the Class 5A tournament, Haas and Smistad dropped a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 heartbreaker to Kerrville Tivy’s Colson Schiek/Sam Snelgrove.
Nearby, Mitchell and Radtke were falling short against Dallas Highland Park’s Lizann Boyer/Annika Juergens 6-3, 6-0.