COLLEGE STATION — The hole deepened and Tristen Brunson knew she was running out of time.
The Florence sophomore stopped thinking about the score, how she’d already dropped one set and was on the brink of elimination and focused, instead, on winning each point she had left.
There just weren’t enough.
Franklin’s Carrie Casey upset Brunson 6-1, 6-3 in a 2A girls semifinal at the UIL Tennis State Tournament on Monday at Texas A&M’s Mitchell Tennis Center.
Casey, who won back-to-back 2A girls doubles state titles in 2011 and 2012 with her sister Kayla Casey, hit a forehand winner for match-point, 40-15. Brunson answered the next point, but Casey used her only backhand winner to eliminate Brunson and reach today’s state final, where she faces Rogers’ Jaycie Talbot at 9 a.m.
“I knew she was a good player and I was going to have to play real good, but sometimes, it just didn’t work,” Brunson said.
Casey hit 24 winners to 10 by Brunson, who is the younger sister of Ashee Brunson, who won a doubles state title with Kasey Button as a junior in 2010.
“Just got to give her (Casey) credit — the girl made shots,” Florence tennis coach Drake Stanczak said. “There were a lot of shots that Tristen hit that were winners, I thought, and the girl just got to it. I thought, throughout the match, most of the points were won, they weren’t lost.”
Brunson, who lost just for just second time this season — the other was to Talbot — lost eight straight games between the first and second sets before winning three of the final five. The early hole was just too deep to climb out of.
Brunson lost the first two games, but took a 40-15 lead in the third on a forehand winner and held serve when Casey hit one wide of the line. Casey, though, held serve with a forehand winner to take a 3-1 advantage and pulled away to win the first set.
Brunson pushed Casey to deuce the first game of the second set, but a winner by Casey gave her the advantage and then she won when Brunson missed a finishing opportunity long. Casey strung together winners after that, totaling eight in the next three games to go up 4-0.
“I probably could’ve played better the first set and I was real tight the whole time and my back hurt, so I couldn’t go for a lot of balls as hard as I wanted to because it hurt,” said Brunson, who defeated Allie Kubacak of Brady, 6-2, 6-0, in the quarterfinals. “But then in the last three games, I loosened up and I started playing better. I thought I was maybe going to make a comeback.”
So instead of facing Talbot for the sixth time this season, Brunson will help her friendly rival warm up and then support her as Talbot goes for her first state title.
“We’re both really good friends, so we both support each other,” Talbot said of Brunson. “Going for first and second, I wanted it to be us.
“We both work out together and we practice together. She’s one of my really good friends. We’ve become really close.”
Talbot, who lost in the semifinals last year, dropped just four games in three sets after winning the opening set of her quarterfinal matchup in a tiebreaker. The junior defeated Jaelen Adams, of Boys Ranch, 7-6 (5), 6-0, in the quarterfinals, and Frankston’s Kara Chitty, 6-3, 6-1, in the semis.
“It’s a really big surprise,” Talbot said. “Last year, I wasn’t there mentally and this year, I’ve kind of improved, I’ve been working on it. It definitely feels good, but it’s just going to be sad without her (Brunson).”