Tennis: Near miss motivates Lobo junior
Langham Creek junior Steven McMullen plans to use what was an excruciating attempt at a state berth as a learning experience, and momentum, for his senior season in 2011-12.
"It was hard work to get to regionals, and I knew it was gong to be tough," he said. "It would have been nice to get to state, but this is just going to make me even more hungry next year."
And despite being reported by more than one media outlet that McMullen had advanced to state, he took it all in stride.
"That's kind of funny," he said of the misprints.
McMullen swept Clear Lake junior Kevin Wang 6-4, 6-0 in the Class 5A Region III boys singles semifinals on April 20 to set up a championship meeting with Pearland senior Daniel Hernandez, one of the state's top players who had already defeated McMullen twice this season.
It was an all-out battle in the opening set with Hernandez grinding out a 7-5 win, and then taking the title at 6-3 in the second set.
"He's a great player," McMullen said of Hernandez. "He's just really talented, and he knows how to figure it out as far as taking advantage of the moment."
Reaching the region finals doesn't guarantee a state tournament berth, and with Bellaire sophomore Alex Stoupine beating Wang 6-3, 6-1 for third place, Stoupine earned the right to face McMullen in a playback match with state on the line.
"The championship match was really emotionally draining, so it's a huge challenge to come back and have to play after that," Langham Creek coach Terry Moran said. "Combine that with your opponent coming off a big win for third place, and having new life, and it's a tough situation."
Stoupine went on to top McMullen 6-3, 6-0 with both playing a fifth match in two days.
"I started playing tennis when I was three, and I've only played that many times in such a short period maybe once, and especially three in one day," McMullen said. "It's something I'll learn from, and build on, and hopefully stay out of in the future."
McMullen plans to continue his competitive career in college, and for now, the options remain open.
"He definitely has a shot to play at the next level, and even tough it was hard to get close to state and not make it, the season was definitely not a disappointment," Moran said. "Steven is a very good player, and a good person, and we're all looking forward to his senior year in team tennis in the fall and the spring season.
"He was the last player from our district (17-5A) at regionals, and we're very proud of that."
Cy-Fair's girls doubles duos of Allyson Barnett and Gabriella Jansson, and Emily Garrett and Erika Holum fell in the region quarterfinals, as did Cy Ridge's Anuj Singh in girls singles.
Also competing at regionals were Cy Woods' Ben Groff and Rick Newton, and Cy Falls' Shaan Patel and Zach Salinas in boys doubles; Cy Ranch's Teja Birudala and Logan Harper, and Cy Falls' Amanda Barrington and Connor White in mixed doubles; and Cy Ranch's Courtney McWilliams and Amy Lundquist in girls singles.
The University Interscholastic League Class 5A State Tournament is May 9-10 at the University of Texas Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
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