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Meet Catawba County’s 2A regional tennis qualifiers

Meet Catawba County’s 2A regional tennis qualifiers

The boys’ high school tennis season is wrapping up with the individual state championship tournaments scheduled for May 10 and 11 and the duals/team finals set for May 18.

In the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference, four singles players and four doubles pairs from Catawba County high schools qualified for the 2A West Regionals.

Cooper Houser, Maiden

Houser didn’t start playing until the end of eighth grade. He said the COVID-19 shutdown led him to tennis.

“COVID had canceled my baseball season,” he said. “I really started to play just for fun. I started working on the sport over the summer and just fell in love with it.”

Houser said tennis is an escape for him. “I love the sport because it doesn’t feel like a chore,” he said.

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The work has paid off for Houser. Last year he qualified for the 2A state tournament. He called that his biggest accomplishment so far.

This year, Houser is 10-3 in singles play at the No. 1 spot and 4-6 in the No. 1 doubles spot. He finished second in the conference tournament in singles play but fell in the second round of regionals competition. His team is still alive in duals/team competition.

Adrian Cruz Angeles, Bunker Hill

A wrestling teammate first talked Angeles into trying tennis.

“Tyler Fox played tennis, he told the wrestlers to join,” he said. “I thought it would be fun.”

Now a senior, Angeles has worked his way up to the No. 1 spot on the team and earned a trip to regionals with a fourth-place finish at the conference tournament. He said it took a lot of determination because he didn’t always have someone to practice with.

“My sophomore year when I had no one to practice with, I would go to parks by myself and just serve for a long time,” he said.

Angeles won’t keep playing at the collegiate level, but he said he may enter some tournaments after his high school playing days are over. He fell in the first round of the 2A regional tournament this year, but finished the season with a 7-7 record at the No. 1 spot.

Dalton Berg, Maiden

For Dalton Berg, tennis has been a way to connect with his father.

“My favorite memory has been the constant battle me and my dad have had playing each other,” Berg said.

Last year, as a junior, he only saw action in nine matches. He was in the bottom half of the lineup in all of those matches. This year, though, he earned a trip to regionals after finishing third in the conference tournament.

Carlos Andrade Chavez, Bunker Hill

Chavez was introduced to tennis by his older brother four years ago. Now, a senior, Chavez said he likes the independence of the sport and the instant feedback it provides.

“Every hit can be analyzed in some form to determine a unique plan to win and how to correct myself,” he said.

The feedback he received at the conference tournament this year was a fifth-place finish and a trip to regionals. He said tennis taught him a lot about overcoming fear and trusting himself.

“My junior year, I was playing as No. 3 and was moved to No. 2,” he said. “I was able to overcome the fear and nervousness of playing at two and started winning more matches.”

Christopher Moore and Sawyer Wright, Bandys

Moore and Wright won the conference tournament in doubles this season. It was no surprise. The two have been teaming up for two seasons. Moore said Wright is the reason he prefers doubles over singles right now.

“Right now I like doubles,” Moore said. “I have a good doubles partner and he is fun to play with.”

Wright said the two have good chemistry. It has been on display all season. The two juniors have played to a 9-3 record at the top doubles spot. At regionals, they fell in the first round to a team from Lincoln Charter, but their rapid improvement over last season may be a good sign of things to come.

Ben Tepper and Bryce Bookhart, Newton-Conover

Tepper and Bookhart have played on the team together for the past three years. They didn’t team up in doubles, though, until this season.

Last year Tepper and Alex Furr teamed up in the number one doubles spot. They went 3-4 and earned a trip to regionals.

The pair split up for their senior season. The move worked well for Newton-Conover as both players earned regional berths as members of new doubles teams. Tepper and Bookhart finished sixth in the conference. It was Tepper’s third trip to regionals.

Alex Furr and Jake McNeely, Newton-Conover

Furr teamed up with junior Jake McNeely this season. Like Tepper and Bookhart, Furr and McNeely pulled out their best tennis when it really counted.

They lost in the first round of the conference tournament but then came back to beat Tepper and Bookhart in the back draw finals. It was good enough for a fifth-place finish and a trip to regionals, Furr’s third straight berth. He called qualifying for regionals his greatest achievement on the tennis court to date.

Noah Cockman and Kevin Rodriguez Mendez, Bandys

Both Cockman and Mendez were introduced to the sport by older brothers. Mendez didn’t like it at first.

“I told myself that tennis wasn’t for me,” he said. “But then COVID hit… and I started to play tennis. From that point on I fell in love with the sport.”

He said he enjoys that it is both a team and individual sport. Cockman said the individual element makes each match meaningful. “You are playing by yourself or with just one person,” he said. “The pressure of playing your best match is there every time.”

Last year, Cockman finished second in the conference in singles competition. This year, he and Rodriguez took second in doubles. At regionals, they made it to the second round before losing to a pair from Community School of Davidson.

Last summer, Cockman also coached at a Nike summer camp. He hopes to coach or give tennis lessons in the future. Rodriguez isn’t sure what his tennis future holds, but he plans to continue playing recreationally.

Jason Koon is the Sports Editor for the Hickory Record and can be reached at [email protected].