Malika Bembridge made history three years ago.

As a 14-year-old freshman, she became the first Copperas Cove Bulldawg to reach the state tennis tournament.

Now as a senior, her second possible trip to Austin started in dominant fashion Monday. The District 12-5A's top seed in girls singles, Bembridge won her three first-day matches at the district tournament at the Waco Regional Tennis Center.

“She played well — it kind of went about how we expected,” Cove head coach Paul Talbett said of Bembridge.

Bembridge beat her first two opponents — Shoemaker's Mariah Moreno and Harker Heights' Tessa Jagodzinski — without dropping a set, then knocked off third-seed Alex Marlin of Temple (6-3, 6-4) in the semifinals.

She'll meet second-seeded Kristina Raphael of A&M Consolidated today for the singles title. The two split matches this year — Raphael won in the fall and Bembridge won in the spring.

All matches today begin at 9 a.m.

Bembridge won't be alone playing in today's championships, third-place matches and possible playbacks.

She's one of four Cove entries looking to advance to next week's Region II-5A tournament, set for April 19-20 back at the Waco Regional Tennis Center. The top two finishers move on.

Paola Nunez and Marisa Rinear reached the girls doubles final and face A&M Consolidated's Esther Parulian and Amy Gore.

Playing for third place in boys singles is Wesley Watts and Heights' Alex Bland, who was one of six Knight entries to reach the quarterfinals but the only one to advance. Despite the shortcoming,

Heights coach Carey Leech noted most of his young roster (12 of 16) will be back in the fall. “The kids played hard,” Leech said. “Six of 10 won their first-round matches and I'm proud of them.”

Cove's fourth entry playing today is Eric Juarez and Sharon White in mixed doubles. The two meet Ellison's Amanda Fouts and Justin Petty for third place.

“Those two years we were in 4A, we got a couple out one year and one out the other, and a ton in the semifinals, but the district was nowhere near as strong as what we're in right now,” Talbett said. Playing in the mixed doubles finals is Belton's Katie Daugherty — a state qualifier last year in singles — and her younger brother Jacob. The two face A&M Consolidated's Sarah Solcher and Jeremy Parulian.

The Daughertys knocked off Fouts and Petty in the semifinals (6-0, 6-1), but that didn't put a total damper on the Eagles' day. The No. 6 seed after an up-and-down year, Fouts and Petty blanked a team from Temple (6-0, 6-0) in the first round, before upsetting a third-seeded A&M Consolidated team in three sets (7-6, 2-6, 6-3).

“We thought they'd win their first round, but from there we didn't know,” Ellison head coach Cary Moore said. “They stayed aggressive. Usually, if they make a few mistakes, they'll get down.

“They lost that second set pretty bad, but they came back in the third thinking they could still win it and they stayed aggressive.”

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