SAN ANTONIO — From being District 26-5A’s fourth seed to state tennis tournament qualifier may indicate more than just the pure talent exhibited by Tivy’s dynamic duo of Lexi Harrel and Shayna Meek.
The grit shown by the pair, plus a bucketful of TFND, has to figure into the equation because of the extent to which they were able to maintain focus and persevere at the Class 5A Region IV tennis tournament held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio.
Harrel and Meek became Tivy’s first qualifiers to the UIL Tournament since pre-pandemic 2019 when boys doubles represented with Sam Snelgrove and Colson Sheik.
Harrel and Meek defeated — in order — opposition from Corpus Christi Flour Bluff, Medina Valley, Georgetown and Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial.
Flour Bluff was the No. 2 seed from 29-5A behind No. 1-seeded Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial, also of 29-5A, which entered the regional event seeded tops for the entire tournament.
Harrel-Meek won 6-0, 6-4 against Flour Bluff, but according to Tivy coach Kirk Kniffen the match “was no cake walk” despite the scores and took over an hour to complete.
“We were actually down in the second set. Flour Bluff’s kids played good tennis,” Kniffen said.
District 28-5A representative Medina Valley provided a respite of sorts, where Harrel-Meek won 6-0, 6-0, and it was a good thing because both Lady Antlers needed to summon up strength in the tournament semifinals against 25-5A Georgetown’s No. 2 tandem, where they prevailed 6-1, 6-2.
“Georgetown's kids were never out of it. They were a good team and we were never out of the woods. We went 18 to 20 minutes with some good volleys,” Kniffen said.
Staring at Harrel-Meek in the finals was Veterans Memorial, which Tivy’s duo beat 6-2 in the first set and lost 4-6 in the second before gritting out a 6-3 win in the third-set clincher.
According to Kniffen the duo from Veterans lined up differently than most doubles and it threw Harrel-Meek off their own game before Kniffen made an adjustment to fight fire with fire.
“Veterans’ kids both played back instead of the usual one-up, one-back," Kniffen said. "They were able to defend and attack the ball very effectively. So we dropped back in the third set and played them the same way. It seemed to surprise them. Both sides played hard and it was a battle. There were some 30 to 40 ball rallies in that second set with points that lasted for up to two minutes. Both sides fought so hard and were totally exhausted when the third set began. We wore each other out."
In the decisive third set, Harrel-Meek found themselves down 3-2, and Meek struggled with muscle cramps at one point.
“She had to take a short pause and work things out and did,” said Kniffen, who credited the pair’s determination, adaptation to the third-set adjustment, and their conditioning as key factors contributing to their success.
“They both do cross fit activities such as Camp Gladiator and have just been so determined,” Kniffen said.
Harrel and Meek will need more grit come May 20-21 when state’s first serve is made at the Northside Athletic Complex in San Antonio.