The Italy Tennis boys doubles team of senior Cole Hopkins and junior Zain Byers, with alternant senior Chase Hamilton ready to fill in, competed at the Regional Tennis Tournament this past Wednesday and Thursday in Abilene. The boys finished 4th overall and did an outstanding job representing Italy High School. There were 32 teams competing and Italy was one of the top four teams. Hopkins and Byers were the district champions out of District 13.
In the first round, Italy’s tennis doubles partners in Cole Hopkins, a senior, and Zain Byers, a junior, took down Stamford Bulldogs’ top contender in three sets. You may recall Stamford defeated Italy in the football semi-finals this season. The Bulldogs eventually became the state champions by defeating Mart, so beating Stamford was a sweet victory for Hopkins and Byers who were also members of the Italy Gladiator football team.
Next up was a quarterfinal matchup against Crowell who was an extremely confident doubles duo. “I was visiting with their parents in the stands and one the dad’s explained that tennis was the only sport their kids participated in and they practiced constantly,” shared Cassandra Hopkins, Cole’s mother. “Needless to say, we were nervous after having a chance to see them in action on the adjacent court while our boys were playing against Stamford.”
Even though regionals appeared to be Crowell’s Graceland, Hopkins and Byers reached a new level of play to hand Crowell and emotional loss in two sets. “We are a Tennis Mecca now,” joked Italy AD and Head Football Coach Hank Hollywood who was receiving updates from Head Tennis Coach Melissa Fullmer stationed with Hopkins and Byers in Abilene.
Italy’s next match was a semi-final challenge against the tournament’s 1 seed. Italy lost 6-1, 6-0 but were still in the hunt for a trip to state. The next morning, Hopkins and Byers would have to win two matches in order to advance but lost the first match against Stanford in three sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, to finish 4th at regionals. When asked about his regional tennis experience, Hopkins remarked, “It was a lot of fun!”