Area netters begin regional play

Forsan and Coahoma High School tennis players have taken a variety of routes to today's Region I-2A Tennis Tournament in Odessa.For the Coahoma doubles team of Aaron Gonzales and Jason Martinez, the regional tournament is the culmination of years of working together.For Forsan's doubles team of Cheyenne Galloway and Rachael Haggard, success came much quicker.And for Forsan singles players Kyle Stevenson and Sydney Holdampf, the trip to the regional tournament is just one more highlight in a season full of them.Those six players will represent Howard County when they begin play today in the regional tournament at the Ector County ISD tennis courts.Gonzales and Martinez recently won the District 3-2A boys' doubles title despite pulling double duty as members of the Coahoma High School baseball team. The overtime work didn't hurt the duo, however, as they steamrolled past teams from Forsan and Stanton to claim the title.Coahoma Coach Mitzi Bell said success for Gonzales and Martinez — who have played tennis together since the seventh grade — is both deserved and overdue.“Up to this point, they had not placed in district,” Bell said. “This year, they committed themselves by taking private lessons and traveling to Big Spring, Midland and Odessa to play (teams from larger schools).“They won the Forsan tournament and competed for third in two other tournaments with 5A schools,” Bell added. “It's been a great season for these boys. They are very coachable and hard-working. We look forward to hopefully going to the next level.”Unlike Gonzales and Martinez, the Forsan duo of Galloway and Haggard apparently caught lightning in a bottle — they had never played together until this season.But that relative inexperience didn't keep them from qualifying for the regional tournament. Galloway, a junior, and Haggard, a freshman, earned their spot in today's event by placing second in the District 3-2A tournament.The regional tournament is becoming familiar ground for Stevenson, who earned a spot there last year en route to the state tourney in Austin.He and Holdampf have had a spotless year so far — they have yet to lose a match, said Forsan Coach Cory Richardson. Stevenson won the 3-2A boys' singles title with a straight-set victory over Sebastian Gutierrez of Denver City, while Holdampf took the girls' singles crown with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over .Powered by the quartet, Forsan won the girls' title at the tournament, while the boys placed second. Richardson hopes this year's results marks a resurgence of a once-powerful tennis program at Forsan.“I feel like we're on our way to getting the program back up to where it used to be,” he said. “Being in Class 2A is a different experience (Forsan competed in Class 1A in 2010), but we have more people competing at the regional tournament than we did last year.”Richardson said the key to the group's success is simple — hard work.“All of these kids put in a lot of time over the summer,” he said, “So, I like our chances … to advance at least one or two players to the next level.”