Ron Rogers has had his fair share of state tournament appearances as a head coach prior to coming to Guyer in 2005 when the school opened.
In previous stops at Uvalde and Conroe Oak Ridge, Rogers led players and teams to the UIL state tournament and knows how to set his teams up to give his players the best chance possible to get to the pinnacle of high school tennis.
So at the beginning of the spring tennis season, Rogers lined up his four top players into two mixed doubles teams — Parker Metcalf and Megan Poe as one team and Kolos Urbanyi and Alex Rodriguez as the other.
It wasn’t until a few tournaments into the spring season that Rogers had a revelation and decided to change things up, combining his two mixed doubles teams into a boys team (Metcalf and Urbanyi) and a girls team (Poe and Rodriguez).
“That’s what I originally wanted to do, but I was happy wherever,” said Rodriguez, a senior who has been on varsity her entire high school career. “I was excited because I knew Megan was a really good player. I hit the ball hard and she’s more of a finesse player, so I figured we’d balance each other out very well.”
Rodriguez had known Poe, a freshman, since Rodriguez was in the fourth grade and actually was doubles partners with Poe’s older sister, Jamie, during her sophomore year when the elder Poe was a senior.
But the younger Poe sister wasn’t quite as excited with the late changeup thrown her way after the spring season had already begun.
“I was really upset because I thought me and Parker could’ve gone far,” Megan Poe said. “I wasn’t too excited, to be honest.”
That tone has certainly changed now as Rodriguez and Poe will become the first Guyer tennis players to play in the UIL Class 4A state tournament today in Austin where they will open play against Highland Park’s Chandler Carter and Nan Porter.
Rodriguez and Poe advanced to the state tournament after a high-intensity, up-and-down run through the Class 4A Region I tournament in Abilene, where they entered the tournament unseeded and saw three of their four matches go to a decisive third set.
In a playback match for the right to go to the state tournament, the duo beat Fort Worth Brewer’s top team, which had beaten Guyer in the District 5-4A final, after falling behind a set and 3-0 in the second set.
That’s when the team had a moment, one Rogers likes to call a “light came on” moment, and the Guyer team went on a 14-game stretch in which they won 12 games en route to a three-set victory and a place in the state tournament.
“What we had to go through at regionals says a lot about these girls,” Guyer assistant coach Robert Barrera said. “Everything was stacked against us. All the other teams were there cheering against us. It was a tough deal, and they fought through it.”
Added Rogers: “I told them if they fought, they wouldn’t be able to put us away. If their emotions are high, these girls are unstoppable.
“That switch just kicked on and a lot of players never learn to do that. With them being in that situation so close to state it’s almost like just bring on whoever, we just want to play. We want to play the top teams.”
One of those top teams would seem to be Highland Park, which has a mystique in tennis that Guyer, a program that had never had a player reach a regional tournament prior to this season, would know nothing about.
Not only do they know nothing of the tradition in Highland Park tennis, but Rodriguez doesn’t care about it either.
“Megan and I are the underdogs, so there’s no pressure on us,” Rodriguez said. “Being down a set and 3-0 says it all for me and Megan. We’re going to work hard and make you beat us until the very end. We’re not going to give it to you. They better come ready to play, because we will. We’re ready.”
It’s that fire that was a big reason why Rogers paired his senior leader with the more controlled, reserved freshman, and those descriptions go not only for their personalities but their games on the court.
“I’m real calm on the court and she gets kind of angry sometimes, so I work at keeping her calm,” Poe said. “If we’re both calm, but we get excited after good points, no one’s going to stop us. We balance each other out. I think that’s why we’re really good together.”
Rodriguez knows the end of her high school athletic career is coming to an end in Austin, and after the ups and downs of her four-year run on varsity, not to mention her four-match run at the recent regional tournament, has put her time at Guyer in perspective.
“I know that’s there forever,” Rodriguez said of her place in the program’s history of being part of the first state tournament-bound team. “That’s something no one can take away. I’m happy to finally break that chain, and hopefully, it’ll open up the gates and tell everyone else if they work hard, they can get to where we are.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.