VHS’ Figueroa, Wolfe team up for tennis title

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

JACKSON — The brilliant prep tennis career of Christine Figueroa was completed in the best way possible — with a three-peat.

Figueroa teamed up with Perry Wolfe, her third partner in three years, and together they won the Class 6A mixed doubles state championship Tuesday afternoon at Parham Bridges Tennis Center. The Missy Gator senior won the Class 4A girls doubles title with her older sister, Catherine, in 2008. Last year, she teamed with Donald Brown to claim the 6A mixed doubles title. Figueroa joins St. Aloysius great Bonney Neill as a three-time state doubles champ in the past decade.

“It’s just great,” Figueroa said after she and Wolfe dismantled Ocean Springs’ D.J. Langley and Anna Myers 6-2, 6-1 in the 6A title match. “Going in, I thought this would be tough because I saw how good their team was and how strong the guy (Langley) was.”

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The big question all season for Figureoa and Vicksburg High tennis coach Vickie Bailey was, who would she pair Figueroa up with? Wolfe didn’t enter the picture until the week of the singles/doubles division tournament. Then, would he be good enough to handle the pressure of a state final against a hard-hitting player like Langley?

Wolfe answered the call by holding his serve in the critical fourth game of the first set. Up 2-1 after Figueroa ripped a pair of winners to break Myers’s serve, Wolfe forced a couple of errors by Langley. He then blasted an ace past Myers. Langley later over-hit an easy lob and that gave the game to VHS for a 3-1 lead.

Langley held his serve to close the gap to 3-2, but Figueroa quickly made it 4-2 by holding serve. The Gator duo broke Myers again and then Wolfe served out the set. Figueroa made the last two winners to take the first set, digging out a pair of tough shots at the net after darting in from the baseline.

In the second set, Figueroa started to get into Langley’s head with her constant encouragement of Wolfe.

“When we broke his serve to start the second set, I knew we had them,” Figueroa said. “I talk a lot. Communication is a big part of playing doubles. I was pumping Perry up.”

Wolfe was appreciative.

“I wouldn’t have won this without her,” Wolfe said. “I just had to play defense. Christine is definitely a great player.”

Bailey said Figueroa’s leadership were a big benefit to her entire team.

“When Coach (Lum) Wright asked if I needed an assistant coach, I said ‘I got one in Christine,’” Bailey said. “I’ve only been around her for two years. She got Perry to believe in himself. She coached him through this tournament.”

Figueroa had one lapse in the second game of the second set, with a double fault, and then lost her serve to make it 1-1. After that, it was all dominance.

The VHS pair pressured Myers and Langley and they continued to come unglued. He lost one game when his volley return went straight up in the air. Figueroa and Wolfe won the next five games in a row to close out the match.

“He had a big serve, but we just attacked them,” Wolfe said.

The VHS pair advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals with a default win Monday afternoon. They followed up with a victory over a pair from Oak Grove 6-1, 6-4.

Warren Central had five players advance to the 6A tournament but none were able to advance to Tuesday. The No.1 boys doubles pair of Marcus Renner and Jalen Dagher lost a tough three-set match to Aaron and David Hilderbrand of Tupelo 6-7, 7-6, 7-5.

Lauren Pratt and Shelby Claire Liddell lost 7-6, 6-2 to Tupelo in girls doubles while boys singles player Bastiaan Koelman lost 6-0, 6-4 to Skyler Flowers.