When Sadie Dearing and Remington Jackson made their first trip to the Class 3A state tournament as a doubles team two years ago, they struggled in the first round and lost 6-0, 6-1 to Sonora’s Sky Jennings and Peyton Matthews, who went on to win the state championship.
Jackson and Dearing were more competitive in last year’s first round, losing 6-2, 6-4 to Vanderbilt Industrial’s Reagan Doyle and Kylann Griffith, but the Ponder duo again watched as the team that knocked it out of the bracket went on to win the state title.
The improvement they showed as juniors has served as motivation as Jackson and Dearing prepare to compete in their third consecutive state tournament. This time, they’re matched up against Brock’s Evan Roberts and Taylor Shupick in the first round, with their mind set on making a deep run through the bracket.
Jackson and Dearing will begin play at noon Thursday at Texas A&M.
“Our first year, obviously, we got crushed,” Jackson said. “It was a huge eye opener, because when we qualified for state we thought, ‘Oh, we’re better than we thought we were.’ Then we got crushed. The second year, it was actually a close match, and when we saw they went on to win state too we knew we could do something big as seniors.”
Ponder coach Mary Irons, who took over the program four years ago, has watched Jackson and Dearing grow throughout their four-year high school career. The duo qualified for regionals as freshmen but fell short of the state tournament before making three consecutive trips to College Station.
The Lady Lions hope Jackson and Dearing’s status as the No. 1 seed out of Region II will pay off in the state quarterfinals. They were the No. 2 seed each of the last two years.
“The last two years at state we’ve always talked about how there is still next year to make that run,” Irons said. “This year, they have something to prove. Hopefully going as the regional champion will help out, but having that experience and going as seniors knowing they don’t have next year definitely gives them a lot of motivation.”
In addition to Jackson and Dearing’s pursuit of a state championship in girls doubles, Ponder’s Julia Musacchio will compete in the girls singles bracket for the first time as a senior. Musacchio was second at the regional tournament after entering as the No. 3 seed and will play Jourdanton’s Lea Karren at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
“I went into regionals not expecting anything,” Musacchio said. “I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by expecting too much. I just played how I usually played and stayed calm, and that was big in helping me get to state. It’s an amazing feeling to get here, and I want to go out there and play the game I’ve always played and just have fun with it.”
Argyle will be the other Denton-area program joining Ponder in College Station, as Sarah Oellerman and Zoe Zablosky will compete in the Class 4A girls doubles state tournament. Oellerman and Zablosky are set to play Boerne’s Georgia Rice and Cat Coe at noon Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Oellerman and Zablosky competed together in just four tournaments prior to the district tournament after Argyle coach Tobi Jordan decided to try something new mid-season.
At the time, Zablosky was playing singles while Oellerman was trying to carve out a role, whether that meant playing singles, doubles or mixed doubles. Jordan brought the two together and they immediately clicked, winning three of four tournaments with one second-place finish.
“It’s been an interesting season,” Jordan said. “It’s taken a lot of time on the court and a lot of hard work that they’ve both put in. They’re able to look past the mistakes of the other person and talk to each other on the court, and because they have good chemistry and both can talk to each other to make adjustments, to me it makes them the team to beat.”
— Matthew Brune contributed to this report