The Madras boys doubles team of Tony Giron and Esteban Gomez were able to reach a goal they had set for a long time: play together at the state tournament.
Giron and Gomez placed second at districts for the second year in a row, losing a hard-fought match to Philomath, May 9. The Philomath team was the No. 2 seed at the state tournament and won the consolation finals match, placing fifth.
Giron and Gomez played their first match early in the morning, Friday, May 17, in Corvallis, against Luke Barnes and Isaac Nemec, of Baker City. The boys could not find their game in the first set, losing 6-2.
The Madras pair woke up after a slow start to the match and played a strong second set of tennis. Gomez was able to serve the ball very well early in the second set and the boys took a 2-1 lead.
The second set featured several rallies and strong tennis play. Eventually, the set was tied 4-4. Giron found a great groove serving the ball and Gomez was controlling the net well, which helped the Buffs take a 6-5 lead, one game away from winning the second set.
But Baker City tied the match at 6-6 and the set had to go into a tiebreaker with the first team to seven points winning the set. Giron and Gomez played competitive tennis, but lost the tiebreaker 7-5, losing the match 6-2, 6-6 (7-5).
The boys responded well in the consolation bracket, playing hard against Jacob Charbonneau and James Cross, of Marist Catholic.
Giron and Gomez started the match well, taking a 3-2 lead, but Marist Catholic tied the match at 3-3. The boys turned a corner and played incredible tennis, both serving well and controlling the entire match, wining 8-4. They moved on to the second day of the state tournament, May 18, facing Alex Aitchison and Michael Putz, of Catlin Gabel, early Saturday morning.
"The improvement they had was incredible, going through separation, adversity and being able to communicate to become friends again; bonding was a pretty cool thing," head tennis coach Margaret Kincaid said. "You could see how badly they wanted to win all season and things turned out pretty good."
In the consolation semifinals match, Giron and Gomez came out strong, playing their best tennis of the tournament, taking a 3-1 lead.
Catlin Gabel responded well, after being surprised by the great play by Madras. Aitchison and Putz won five straight games, taking a 6-3 lead over the Buffs.
Giron and Gomez didn't show any sign of giving up and made some incredible hustle plays to get back in the match, down 7-6. The last game came down to several deuce games, but eventually the Catlin Gabel duo came away with the win and beat Giron and Gomez 8-6, eliminating them from the tournament.
"The first match, we should have done so much better," said Gomez. "They were a good team, but we could have done better. The first consolation game, I think we just wanted it more. We really did try our hardest during our last match, but just couldn't get it."
"Making it to state felt really good since I couldn't compete last year," he said. "It was really fun, but not what I was expecting. It was better. I think we have improved a lot since freshman year and we ended the season pretty good because we became better toward the end of the year."
The goal for Giron and Gomez was to compete at state and that is exactly what they did. The two played tough competition and showed they were capable of hanging with the best from around the state.
"It was a good season, but I do think we could have won this," Giron said. "I think it was hard to practice with all the rain, especially the week before state. We had to practice inside, which was unfortunate, but still a good season. The last match, we could have won it, but we weren't able to finish on some opportunities. This was a fun experience, a great tournament, with lots of good tennis."
The Madras boys tennis program is losing a big senior class, but will still look to be a strong team next year.
"I feel good about next year," said Kincaid. "I have some strong underclassmen and if they can get in some practice and tournaments over the summer, with some self-motivation, we can have another strong team."
The team will be a younger group of athletes, but responded well seeing Giron and Gomez place at districts and play hard at state.
"If you really want to compete at state, you need to do year-round tennis," Giron said. "There is no way you are going to compete at a high level, especially in the winners bracket, if you don't play year-around. Get out there in the summer, spring break, as soon as the weather clears up, start playing. Playing all the time and listening to your coaches is the only way you will be able to compete at state. You need to play more than just during the season."
Kincaid was very proud of how hard the boys worked this season and especially the leadership they showed toward the underclassmen this season.
"The boys and coaches choose an athlete that is really promising to go to the district tournament, so they can get something out of it," Kincaid said. "It gets a younger player more excited and motivated. When Esteban (Gomez) was a sophomore, he was on the edge of not playing tennis anymore. He was questioning his ability and was chosen to travel to districts that year and it really changed how he played after that."
"Having the confidence of older players believing in him really gave him a driving force to compete hard the following year," she said. "He did that for these younger kids and showed them how to work hard."
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