AUSTIN — His first match was longer than he expected.
His day was longer than anticipated.
His stay, however, was shorter than hoped for.
After posting a three-hour, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Fort Bend Dulles’ Jeffrey Chen in a quarterfinal match, Belton junior Jacob Daugherty’s first visit to the Class 5A State Tennis Tournament came to an end with a 6-4, 7-5 semifinal loss to Round Rock Westwood’s Miguel Alda at the University of Texas’ Penick-Allison Tennis Center on Monday.
“I think it was definitely a positive experience,” Daugherty said of his first trip to state. “I think I learned a lot. I didn’t have any expectations coming in. I was just trying to make it here, so winning that first match was icing on the cake.”
His first state trip will definitely be a memorable one, not just for his play but for two lightning delays that pushed the schedule back several hours. Daugherty finished his semifinal match, originally scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., at 7:40.
And the second delay came at a very untimely moment for, coming with a 5-5 score in the second set of his semifinal match. At the moment it was halted, Daugherty was preparing to serve in a game that was tied at deuce and had seen both players reach game point several times.
The first point after the delay resulted in a rally between the two, but ended with Daugherty hitting a relatively easy backhand into the net. He then double-faulted to go down 6-5.
Alda served out the final game to claim the match and move onto today’s final against College Station A&M Consolidated’s Frankie Colunga.
“I think it made both of us lose our rhythm,” Daugherty said of the delay. “But it was to both of us, it’s not like it happened just to me. He had to deal with the same thing.”
Belton coach Kyle Larson believed the delay was a factor.
“I think it definitely played a role,” he said. “Both Jacob and Miguel played long three-set matches before, and our plan was to work the points and keep him moving, knowing he had played a three-setter, too. And then with the delay, it’s hard to keep that going. Then Jacob is sitting around waiting, anticipating, and you also have to get your mental state back in it.”
It was a fairly well-fought match, with Alda winning the first two games, Daugherty answering with three games in a row and tying the first at 4, before Alda prevailed.
Then Daugherty won the first three games of the second set and had a 5-2 lead before Alda came charging back to tie it at 5-all.
“We were neck-and-neck,” Daugherty said. “And I really think it could have gone either way before the delay or after. It was just a matter of a couple of points.”
But even after Alda took the first set and came charging back from 5-2 down in the second — considering how Daugherty performed in his opening match — it was hard to completely consider the Belton player dead in the semifinal.
In the quarterfinal, Daugherty got off to a fast start, taking a 3-0 lead before Chen finally held serve. That was enough to give Chen some momentum and go up a set, and then take a 2-0 lead in the second set.
“I don’t know if it was my level of play that went down or that his went up,” Daugherty said. “I wasn’t really nervous coming in and warming up, but I guess it just kind of hit me where I was.”
After some calming words from Larson and some joking from his fan base, Daugherty got into a groove. He won four of the next five games to go up 5-3, before Chen got back into the set to force the tiebreaker, which Daugherty led throughout.
“I think the cheering and inside jokes helped me calm my nerves,” Daugherty said. “I try to have fun and laugh. I try not to be too serious because when I become completely into it, I let my emotions get the best of me.”
After winning the tiebreaker, Daugherty went up 4-0 in the final set and was leading 5-2 when he started cramping. Chen took advantage and tied it at 5-all but couldn’t hold serve, and Daugherty served for the match and a trip to the semifinal.
“Overall, Jacob did awesome,” Larson said. “He has nothing to be ashamed of and he represented himself well out there, and we are proud of what he did.”