It’s been a season of firsts for Michelle Torres.
Several of those firsts were milestones, but first came a setback. For the first time in her high school career, the Lamar tennis phenom failed to win a district title. She had won as a freshman, sophomore and junior before settling for second place in her final season. She recalls that the pressure of high expectations made her nervous and tight.
“I was disappointed with myself,” Torres said. “I thought it was expected to win district. I had won it the three years before. My senior year is supposed to be where I do the most. So when I lost at district, I was really upset.”
That disappointment, though, became a spark that helped Torres accomplish something else that had never happened in her high school career: making state.
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“Everyone told me, ‘You’re still going to regionals. You can still make it,’” Torres said. “Instead of being upset and dwelling on that loss, I trained hard in the few weeks I got in between district and regionals. And I just went with the mindset of, I’m starting over. It’s a new tournament. Anything can happen if I go play my best. I can still make it to state.”
Torres did so by defeating in the semifinals someone she had never before beaten: Riley Reeves of Richland, the defending regional champ and 2014 state runner-up. Torres went 40-4 in the regular season with two of those losses to Reeves.
Torres lost to El Paso Coronado’s Marjorie Antohi in the Region I championship match April 21 at UT Arlington. But the championship game loss was of no great importance. The top two finishers from the four regions advanced to the 6A state tournament last week in College Station.
“I just went out there and I played my best and I ended up defeating her 6-4, 6-2,” Torres said of the semifinal match. “I wasn’t the least bit upset about losing in the championship after the accomplishment of beating Riley.”
Torres, the daughter of former UT Arlington tennis coach Carlos Torres, is the first Lamar tennis player to reach state in singles. And she’s the first singles tennis player in the Arlington school district to reach the state tournament since … well, Lamar coach Courtney Monroe admits the record-keeping in tennis is a little shaky. But however long it’s been, it’s been a long while.
“There are not records for tennis like there are for other sports,” Monroe said.
Monroe wonders if most people realize how difficult it is for a player to reach state in tennis. “We get lost in it because so many go [to state] in wrestling and track,” Monroe said. “Arlington schools have been very good at that. Sam Houston soccer this year — what a great accomplishment. But there’s so few in tennis who go [to state]. Two make it out of district and two make it out of the region. So you have eight 6A players out of the whole state who are at state. People don’t appreciate how hard it is in tennis.”
Torres’ younger brother Nick can appreciate his sibling’s accomplishment. The Lamar junior won the District 4-6A boys singles title. That would seem to give him a leg up on his sister in the prestige department. But with as much as she’s won over the years, his older sis casts a tennis court-size shadow.
“I’m definitely proud,” Nick Torres said of his sister. “I always get mentioned as Michelle’s brother. Let’s just put it that way.”
Heavy rains put a bit of a damper on her state tournament appearance. Torres lost in the first round last Tuesday to eventual champion Fernanda Contreras of Austin Westlake. Weather delays caused Torres’ match to start early in the evening instead of early in the morning. The sitting around and wondering if she would get to take the court that day didn’t put her in the best mind frame to compete.
“That morning I got ready, I was pumped. I was ready to play a match that morning,” Torres said. “I didn’t actually think I was going to play after waiting around and looking at the forecast. I kind of lost my mental readiness.”
Now, she’s getting ready to take the next step in her career. She will play college tennis next season at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I’ll go out there and compete my hardest and see where that takes me,” Torres said.