For the fourth time this decade, the Kilgore High School tennis team will send a boys doubles team to the state tournament.
The University Interscholastic League’s state tennis tournament for all classifications is this week at the George P. Mitchell Tennis center and Omar Smith Intramural Tennis Center, on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.
This time, it’s Jack Tyra and Kalen Ray making the trip, after finishing second in the UIL Region II tourney last month in Longview. Tyra and Ray will play Canyon’s duo of Asher Melton and Bryce Ware next Thursday, May 16, at 10:30 a.m.
If they’re able to knock off Melton and Ware, they’ll move to the semifinals – that’ll be a matchup against either Levi Wilkins and Noah DeLeon of Fredricksburg, or Maurice Rojas-Solis and Keaton Washington of Center.
Ray and Tyra have been pushing themselves to get ready for the trip, KHS tennis coach Jason Maroney said Friday morning.
“They go to doubles lessons in Longview once a week, and Center, who is actually one of the state competitors, came and played us this week,” Maroney said. “I’ve put them against some Longview kids and some adults. They’re doing good. They’re more baseliners; I’m more, ‘get to the net;’ the team that controls the net usually wins the point.”
Maroney noted Kilgore has a tough draw, right off the bat, facing Melton and Ware.
“They’re good, really good, and probably the favorite,” he said. “They’ve already beaten the team that made the championship round last year, and the team from Fredricksburg.They’ll be tough. They got second in state in fall team tennis and just dropped down from 5A to 4A.”
The other three times Kilgore has made the state tournament – Sanjit Lanka and Takashi Thomas (twice) and Ian St. Clair and Tyrese Sheffield – they’ve finished second. Maroney noted there is a key difference this year, with Kilgore’s draw.
“This is the first time we’ve been when we got second at regionals,” he said. “Those others (Kilgore teams) got first. They drew a regional runner-up in the first round. This year, we have to play a regional championship team.”
Maroney first paired Ray and Tyra in the second tournament of the spring. They’re juniors, so this could be a special run.
If Kilgore wins its matchup against Canyon, they’ll face the Center-Fredricksburg winner in the state semifinals at 3:30 next Thursday afternoon. The boys Class 4A finals are on Friday, a 10 a.m. start.