SAN ANTONIO — Midway tennis player Brendan Boland tries to stay composed and emotionally steady on the tennis court. However, after securing a spot in the 6A boys singles finals with a pair of dominant wins Thursday, he turned to the strong Midway cheering contingent watching him and let out a loud yell.
He definitely earned the celebratory moment.
First, in the quarterfinals he dispatched of Nicolas Pesoli of Round Rock Westwood, the No. 1 ranked player in Texas, 6-4, 6-3. He followed up that win a few hours later with an even more emphatic 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Ben McDonald on Plano in the semifinals at San Antonio’s Northside Tennis Center.
Boland is the first Midway tennis player to reach the state finals since Kenna Kilgo won state in 2010. Troy Simonek, the same coach that watched her win state 11 years ago, was watching his No. 1 player this year roll into a chance at a title. After the semifinal victory, Boland credited Simonek, actually, for helping him reach the title match.
“I’m excited for Coach Troy,” he said. “He works so hard, and he’s helped our whole team a lot.”
Boland will battle Tyler Steward of Midland High School at 10 a.m. Friday for the championship.
Against McDonald in the semifinals, Boland was on the attack. Receiving many serves from inside the baseline, he seemed to have an answer for everything the hard-hitting McDonald tried. Simonek said it was a good matchup for Boland.
“It set up well for us because that guy tries to live off his serve,” he said. “Brendan has such a great return game, so once he was in points he could be patient and find balls to be real aggressive on.”
To open the semifinal match, Boland held his serve at love, establishing the tone right away. That was in direct contrast to his quarterfinal match earlier in the day, when Pesoli broke Boland’s serve at love to open that match. However, Boland settled down and broke Pesoli’s serve to even the first set at 2-2.
“I started off slow,” Boland said. “I don’t think I was nervous, but he started off playing really well. After that I started finding myself. I’ve been working on my backhand recently, and I started hitting it a little better.”
Boland’s slice backhand seemed to be frustrating Pesoli, as did Boland’s ability to stay in long points. At 4-3 in the first set, Boland threw up three defensive lobs on Pesoli overheads. The third one actually hit Pesoli in the head as he was trying to run back and track it down. At that point, the momentum in the match began tilting towards Boland.
Later, at 4-4 in the first set, Boland fought off three break points to go up 5-4, and he closed the first set with a break.
Serving at 5-3 in the second set, Boland ran down a Pesoli volley and flicked a passing shot down the line to win the set and the match, 6-4, 6-3. Simonek was proud of Boland for staying calm and playing his game in his first match at the state tournament.
“First time at state, he started a little tentative,” Simonek said. “I told him to just go out and work and trust your shots. Once he started doing that, he really started taking control of the match.”
Elsewhere, the Groesbeck mixed doubles tandem of Blane Sadler and Andrea Smith also won two matches to advance to the Class 3A finals. They beat Mollie Gilbert and Ryland Miller of Perster in the quarterfinals, 6-0, 6-2. They then beat Jessica Alvarado-Soto and Nathanael Pfiester of Ingram Moore 6-2, 6-4. They will take on Bryson Hirt and Carsyn Watts of Wall Friday.
“We really played well,” Groesbeck coach Jim Longbatham said. “They served well and played great from the baseline. Both matches were pretty even, but then we ran off a string and finished them out.”
One more central Texas racketeer, Stormy Tatum of Gatesville, will also be playing Friday. She earned a spot in the 4A girls singles finals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Kaylin Parker of Livingston and a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Jenna Carr of Corpus Christi Calallen.