Crawford tennis players (from left) Andy McAllister, Melissa Tanner, Jaycee Williams, Katy Baur and Dylan Lane are the first from their school to reach the state tournament.

Crawford High School photo

For a school with nearly no history of success in tennis, getting one entry to state would qualify as a major success.

Crawford wasn’t satisfied with just breaking its state barrier – it smashed through.

Never has a tennis player from Crawford performed on the ultimate stage. That changes Tuesday, when five Pirates and Lady Pirates head to Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station for the state tennis tournament.

Dylan Lane will be part of the boys’ singles event after winning the Class 2A Region III tournament, Katy Baur and Jaycee Williams were second in girls’ doubles and Melissa Tanner and Andy McAllister qualified second in mixed doubles.

“It’s awesome to get to take an actual team down there,” Crawford coach Jeff Coker said. “A lot of times we go to regionals, and it’s me and one kid or something like that. It’s been cool because we get to be together and hang out, and it feels a little more like a team sport like volleyball or basketball because it’s more than one kids going. It’s a whole group of us, so it’s been fun.”

The Crawford contingent heads a busy day for Central Texas, which has 19 total entries.

Iredell leads the area with six of them into the 1A event, including Ayla Coffell and Jana Lentshcke (girls’ singles), Garrett Mitchell and Micah Wellborn (boys’ doubles), Alexis Argott and Kaelyn Clark, and Madison Ogborn and Hannah Fowler (girls’ doubles) and Ally Johnson and Tanner McDonald (mixed doubles).

The area’s other qualifiers are: Noah Wingate, Robinson, 4A boys’ singles; Ernesto Fernandez, Chilton, 2A boys’ singles; Melissa Tye, Chilton, and Brooke Tomlinson, Hamilton, 2A girls’ singles; Luis Ortiz and Gabriel Macias, Itasca, 2A boys’ doubles; Sophie Kammerer and Megan Freeland, Dawson, 2A girls’ doubles; Megan Litton and Caleb Diller, 4A mixed doubles; Marissa Horne and Caleb Horne, Hamilton, and Kaylee Wiley and Hamilton Hull, Bremond, 2A mixed doubles; and Alex Thompson and Jakob Wood, Kopperl, 1A mixed doubles.

For Crawford, ending its drought started at the district level.

Thirteen players got through to regionals, which was by far the most it had ever had in that event. But there was still plenty of work to be done, and Chilton and Bremond were waiting with strong teams of their own.

But Crawford managed to have its five players stay strong in key moments and get through.

“It was exciting because of the unique opportunity,” Lane said. “This is the first year Crawford has had a lot of success with tennis, and me and my friends and schoolmates are all going, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think it’s really special that the people that are going are going.”

Coach’s first trip

Crawford’s players aren’t the only ones who will experience this for the first time.

Not even Coker has made the trip to state.

“We’re all new. We’ve never been down there,” Coker said. “This is the first year they’ll have it all at (Texas) A&M. This is really cool for these kids to be able to play on their campus and in a big stadium like that. It’ll be a good time.”

Getting to state is one thing – winning is another.

Lane said he went online to learn a little about his opponent, Corpus Christi London’s Dillon Humpal, but is more concerned with his game.

“I like to play really aggressive and don’t give my opponent any breathing room. I keep it consistent,” Lane said.

“A lot of times I try to go for too much, but really I have to keep cool. If I keep cool, my chances go up a lot.”

Reaching the final destination wasn’t on Tanner and McAllister’s mind at the beginning of the season. Actually, they had never played together.

But they learned quickly their skills complemented each other well.

Tanner is solid with her groundstrokes, while McAllister is waiting at the net to pounce on any mistake their opponents make. Still, making it this far was shock – even to them.

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” McAllister said. “I never imagined I’d be going to state, and I don’t think anybody at our school thought that we would.”

Girls’ doubles success

The Lady Pirates’ girls’ doubles team has a similar composition, with Baur playing more at the back of the court while Williams cleans up at the net.

But both have the ability to control matches with their serves.

Like Tanner and McAllister, Baur and Williams had to find their footing. But they clicked at district, and that carried over to regionals.

They hope they can avoid getting too excited and make it feel like just another match.

“I think we just need to stay calm and not get to worried about what everybody else is doing,” Baur said.

“When we (make mistakes), we have to help each other stay positive and see if we can play our best.”

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