Hester/Perez Look to Cap Careers with State Gold
Reagan County's Dylan Hester and Andy Perez are heading back to the State Tennis Tournament with one thing on their mind – Gold.
The pair gained a shot of confidence in the regional finals by defeating a team in straight sets that they are all too familiar with... Tulia's defending 3A State Champions Jaxton Hoelting and Carlos Subealdea.
"They were stronger this year," Hester said. "They had stronger shots, but we had more in the tank than they did."
The Owls' Boys Doubles team faced Hoelting/Subealdea two times last year, and lost both times. One was in the regional championship (6-2, 6-2) and the other in the state finals (6-2, 1-6, 4-6).
"We were able to prove they are human," Perez said. "I think we had them built up in our minds. We were able to prove we can compete with the best and win."
Hester/Perez, both seniors at RCHS, found it smooth sailing during the regional tournament last week defeating Crane, Ballinger and Brady with a total of four dropped games.
"In the finals we got up on Tulia 5-1 in the second set," Hester said. "That is when it started feeling like deja vu."
The Owls dropped three games in a row to Tulia to bring the set to 5-4.
"When it was 5-1 Carlos Subealdea was up to serve," Hester said. "He just turned it loose. Every shot was as hard as he could hit it. He had nothing to lose. We were able to pull it out though to get the win."
The Owls, who were state silver medalists in 2015, have found little resistance all season since improving their game over the last 12 months.
"Last season our net game was our weak spot," Perez said. "We worked on it all year, and now I can honestly say our net and midcourt game is our strength."
Hester/Perez won't have to think about Tulia's Hoelting/Subealdea during the first rounds of state play. Reagan County's duo was placed on the opposite side of the bracket setting the scene for an epic finals rematch.
"I think we have the easier draw this year," Hester said. "Last year we were up against all the one seeds. No one thought we would make it out of the first round. Then they counted us out in the second round. Next thing you know we are in the finals, and were two games away from gold."
Hester said the roles are switched this year.
"I think Tulia has the tougher road to the finals," Hester said. "All the pressure is on them to defend their gold. You really never know though. The state tournament is a whole different ball game. Anything can  happen."
Reagan County Tennis Coach Tracy Tatum-Smith (aka Coach T) said she feels confident in the pair's game heading into state.
"They have rounded out their game nicely," Coach T said. "If they continue to play their game then they should have a good showing at state."
Both Perez and Hester said they owe everything to Coach T.
"She is our inspiration," Hester said. "Of course we want a state championship, but I feel it will mean more being able to give that to her. We want to be her first boys doubles state champions. She has come close in the past, and we both want to be the ones that give that to her."
Perez said he feels confident they will be able to come through in the end because of last year's experience.
"Last year we were little kids in a big arena," Perez said. "Now we feel like men. It is our turn. We will make it happen. We will get our gold."
The Owls face Landry Sheridan and Dax Davis from White Oak in the first round of the state tournament. That match is set for 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 16 at Texas A&M University.
"There are a lot of unknowns at state," Coach T said. "We will do our best to prepare for each team we may face, but it is mostly about playing your game flawlessly. If you can do that it doesn't matter who your opponent is."
Hester/Perez are joined on the bottom of the bracket by Logan Moon/Will Paschal of Brock who will face Zachary Gasca/Daniel Belmares of Altair Rice.
Tulia's Hoelting/Subealdea will face Cameron Coker/Caleb Dinger of Woodville in the first round. They are joined on the top of the bracket by Dylan Davis/Matt Hoffman of Brock facing Jonathon Hardy/Robert Heyburn of Universal City Randolph.
"Right now our regional gold medal doesn't matter," Hester said. "We are going into a tournament solid with schools that have produced state champions in the past. As we said before... anything can happen." 


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