ROGERS — Sophomore Collin Matthews decided to come out for the Rogers High tennis team and it paid big dividends to help the Mounties claim the 6A-West Conference title on Thursday at the Rogers High courts.
Matthews claimed the conference boys’ singles title with a 6-1, 6-2 win over third-seeded Emiliano Aguirre of Bentonville and gave Rogers a sweep of the conference team titles as well.
“This is special,” Rogers coach Matthew Fulton said. “We’ve won conference championships before but never the boys and girls at the same time.”
Fulton acknowledged Matthews’ addition was a key, too.
“He’s a very high level player, ranked in the South, ranked number one in Arkansas for his age group,” Fulton said. “He came to high school tennis because he wanted to help out the team. He saw we needed more players. He asked if he could come out and was ecstatic when he wanted to.
“As you can tell, he helped us a ton. To me, when I watch him, his focus ability and his intense desire to win every point is what makes him different. He’s extremely fast and athletic and he hits good shots, but there’s a lot of kids out here who do that. But his mental game is so much different than I’ve ever seen at the level I’ve watched in high school tennis.”
Matthews, who had been home-schooled in the past, said he’s capable of playing better despite cruising through the two-day tournament. The 16-year-old didn’t drop a game in winning two matches on Wednesday, then dominated in the semifinals 6-2, 6-1.
“It was just a little windy today,” Matthews said. “Some players are better at dealing with it than others. I definitely feel like I can play better. I stopped playing for a while and am just kinda getting back into it.”
Springdale Har-Ber’s doubles team of Hayden and Carter Swope overcame a tough first-set battle against Vikram Balasekaran and Nicky Simpson of Bentonville to win 7-5, 6-0 in the finals.
Hayden Swope won the 6A state doubles title a year ago with Conor Clardy, but he and his brother, Carter, have not lost yet this season. However, the second-seeded Bentonville team led 4-3 and 5-4 in the opening set.
But the brothers came together to win the last three games of the opening set and rolled in the second. The Har-Ber tandem broke serve and grabbed the momentum late in the set and never looked back.
“I think they were doing a really good job and we had to do our part in making our serves,” Hayden Swope said.
Carter Swope, a freshman, said he and his brother have meshed well as a team this year.
“I’m a very aggressive players and to have Hayden at the net after I hit a hard shot and he’ll just put it away. It’s really nice.”
Carter has been watching his brother for the last couple of years and he’s excited for the chance to be on the court with him and have the chance to possibly win their own state title.
“I’ve been waiting a while and I’m just really glad it turned out like this,” Carter said.
Defending Overall and 6A state doubles champions Jenna Kate Bohnert and Grace Lueders keyed Rogers’ run to the team title on the girls side. The duo steamrolled four opponents to earn the conference title. They didn’t drop a game in the first three rounds and downed Darby Allison and Eva Lopez of Benton-ville 6-1, 6-2 in the finals.
Bentonville’s Ella Coleman, the defending Overall girls singles’ champion, also had no trouble, losing just one game in four matches.
The sophomore was pleased with how she played, too.
“I think I played well considering the wind and the weather,” Coleman said. “I had to take that into account when I was playing and I had to play smart.”
She’s got her sights set on the state tournament on Oct. 12-13 at Rebsamen Park in Little Rock. Coleman lost in the finals a year ago, but bounced back a week later to win the Overall title.
“I’m playing well and I’m practicing a lot and I’m excited to play the state tournament. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and hope for the best.”
6A West Conference Tournament results at Rogers High
Collin Matthews, Rogers, def. Robinson Wright, Fort Smith Southside, 6-2, 6-1. Emiliano Aguirre, Bentonville, def. Jacob Nordin, Fayetteville, 6-3, 6-0.
Matthews, Rogers, def. Aguirre, Bentonville, 6-1, 6-2.
Carter Swope/Hayden Swope, Springdale Har-Ber, de. Ogden Wells/Sankalp Pandey, Bentonville West, 6-2, 6-1.
Vikram Balasekaran/Nicky Simpson, Bentonville, def. Nick Fulton/Cooper Gommel, Rogers, 7-5, 6-2.
Swope/Swope, Har-Ber, def. Balasekaran/Simpson, Bentonville, 7-5, 6-0.
Ella Coleman, Bentonville, def. Stella De Vera, Rogers Heritage, 6-0, 6-0 Cassie Cerventes, Bentonville West, def. Cate Cole, Fort Smith Southside, 6-0, 6-2.
Coleman, Bentonville, def. Cerventes, Bentonville West, 6-0, 6-1.
Jenna Kate Bohnert/Grace Lueders, Rogers. def. Avery Weilert/Caroline Stewart, Fayetteville, 6-0, 6-0,. Darby Allison/Eva Lopez, Bentonville West, def. Ashley Kelley/Taylor Metcalf, Rogers, 6-2, 6-4.
Bohnert/Lueders, Rogers, def. Allison/Lopez, Benton-ville West, 6-1, 6-2.