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Crookston, Schwartz earn state tennis berths

April 19, 2019

DEER PARK - Living up to a No. 1 seed isn’t always easy while defeating one is even more demanding.

That was exactly the case for Clear Creek’s Carter Crookston and Clear Springs’ Allison Schwartz Thursday in the Region III-6A tennis tournament.

In the end, neither could have been much more satisfied after earning state berths.

Crookston capped a four-match run without the loss of a set with an exhausting 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) win over Katy Taylor’s Christopher Cequea-Rivero in the boys’ championship singles match while Schwartz fell to Pearland Dawson’s Kyler Powe, 6-0, 6-2 in the girls’ title match.

While Crookston lived up to his No. 1 seeding, it was freshman Schwartz who knocked off No. 1 seed Kayal Gownder of Cy Fair, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in the semifinals to all but secure her spot at state.

Schwartz simply had to wait for the result of a playback match, which Gownder won, effectively punching Schwartz’s ticket to College Station for the May 16-17 University Interscholastic League championships.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to beat her,” Schwartz said of the match with Gownder. “Maybe finishing third or fourth here…but I wasn’t expecting to go to state.

“It’s really an accomplishment for me. I was mentally and physically exhausted after that match. I was just drained for the finals. I had a super-championship (tournament) that I won last week in Austin, and I’m just really tired.

“But Kyler is a very good player. I don’t feel bad losing to her. She’s an amazing player.”

Schwartz won the pivotal second-set tiebreaker, saving two set points, to avoid a third set.

“Three sets would have been a drag,” she said.

Schwartz also defeated Brooke Benoit of Baytown Sterling, 6-2, 6-1 and Blake Matthews of Atascocita, 6-3, 6-1 en route to the finals.

Powe was dominant in the championship match, taking advantage of Schwartz’s energy-deprived condition.

“Oh my goodness, it was hot,” she said. “But I’m happy to be going to state. I’ll be practicing a lot, and getting ready with Carter. I will take some days off, though.”

Crookston’s road to the final wasn’t as easy as it might appear from the scores.

“I had a tough second-round match (6-4, 6-4 over Alex Koong of Houston Lamar), and obviously the final was close,” Crookston said.

Other wins came over Caelum Dung of Kingwood, 6-0, 6-1 in the first round and 6-0, 6-1 over Brian Wan of Cinco Ranch in the semifinals.

In the championship match, all didn’t go according to plan for Crookston.

He found himself trailing 4-0 very quickly, but reeled off six straight games to grab the momentum.

He also had to battle back in the second set to force a tiebreaker.

“In the first set, I was just telling myself I had to change whatever I was doing because obviously it wasn’t working,” Crookston said. “The first thing I had to do was just get more balls back.

“I knew my opponent…I’ve played him several times. He’s not a traditional player, and I wasn’t playing to fit his style.

“He’s very consistent and very fast, and I think I was going for a little too much early.

“I just started bending my knees a little more and getting underneath the ball to hit more topspin. I was able to build the point, and then when I got a short ball I tried to finish it.”

Crookston, a junior who advanced to the Class 6A doubles state championship last year with Michael Raji, knows what he’ll address in preparing for state.

“Conditioning for sure,” he said. “My legs started giving out in the second set. I started cramping, down 5-6. My quads were tightening up, and I just tried to finish the point quickly.”

He did exactly that, avoiding a third set, which no doubt would have been taxing.

“Everything’s pretty good with my game,” Crookston said. “The only thing I would say I need to change is maybe coming in a little bit more on my serve. The ground strokes are pretty solid and the volleys are fine.”

tdunnam@hcnonline.com