Three Wylie tennis players earned spots at State this spring, and ironically, all three are sophomore girls who have known each other for years.
Carly Bontke qualified for state in girls’ singles after winning both the district and regional championships. Kindall Alford and Stealey Crousen qualified for state in girls’ doubles after winning a playback and finishing 2nd.
Mixed doubles pair Trevor Short and Leighton Alford just barely missed a spot at state, finishing 3rd at regionals. Leighton is the lone senior in the group, and Trevor is a freshman. Kindall and Leighton are sisters.
All of the Wylie regional qualifiers have a long history of playing together in junior tennis growing up in Abilene.
“Trevor and I started out playing together,” Stealey said. “I played my first tournament when I was 7 or 8.”
Ironically, Stealey and Kindall started out enemies, probably because they were always competing on the tennis court.
“We actually hated each other for the majority of our childhood,” Kindall said. “We are best friends now.”
That friendship blossomed before Coach Mark Hathorn put the two together as a doubles team – but once they became a team, it certainly helped them on the court.
“There wasn’t any awkwardness,” Stealey said. “There was a sense of comfort there.”
Both say they like playing doubles better than singles.
“I like that there is a sense of camaraderie out there,” Stealey said, and Kindall agreed.
“You are not alone,” she said. “You have someone out there to help you.”
Carly, on the other hand, feels like she is stronger in singles. Few would argue with her after she had a pretty dominant spring season. After winning district, she headed to regionals as the No.2 seed behind a girl from Wichita Falls Rider who had beaten her the previous two times they had played.
That girl was her opponent in the regional championship.
“I was just going to go out and play my hardest,” Carly said. “I went out there and played my game. I just kept the ball in play until she messed up, and she got frustrated.”
Kindall said Carly is amazing on the court.
“We call her the Energizer Bunny,” Kindall said. “She can run anywhere and everywhere and get to everything.”
Coach Hathorn said Carly’s mental game has helped her be successful.
“She is like a mental giant,” he said. “She is so tough mentally. In tennis there are a lot of peaks and valleys and streaks. We try to manage those. These girls are all so coachable. They work so hard on their own. These guys are winners, and they are only sophomores.”
Leighton and Stealey had an even tougher road at regionals. They had advanced to regionals as the 2nd place team in their district.
“We lost in the semis at regionals, which was heartbreaking,” Stealey said. “We had to go in with the attitude that we had to believe in ourselves.”
“We like to make it hard on the parents and the coaches,” Kindall joked.
But when the girls got a chance for a playback, they took advantage. They went out and beat the team that beat them in the district championship game.
“It was actually straight sets,” Stealey said. “It was the best we had ever played.”
Now the three friends got to experience state together. The state results were not available at press time.
“It was always us three together,” Stealey said. “It’s kind of surreal that it really is us three now.”
Kindall said it has taken a lot of hard work since they were young kids to get to this point.
“It makes it worth it,” she said. “We know that we are going to be there together. I’m still in shock that we are going to state.”
Carly said even though the three girls have a close bond, the entire tennis team has become a family.
“Everyone out here is different in their own way,” she said. “But we came together as a team. We have created our own family in tennis.”
Coach Hathorn agreed.
“Their parents are all awesome as well,” he said. “We truly do have a tennis family. We couldn’t do it without our parents.”
By Candy Reagan