He went farther than any other Port Aransas High School tennis player in the past 21 years, but, “I could have done better,” senior Zach Childs said after the Class 2A state tennis tournament on Tuesday April 26.
Childs dropped the first set, 2-6, but came back from love-3 in the second set. It just wasn’t enough, and he finished the second set at 4-6 to drop the match.
To get to the state tournament, Childs fought off a tough opponent in a playback at the regional tournament two weeks prior.
Childs said he was “extremely excited” when he qualified.
“I knew I could do it, but I didn’t know nobody (from PAHS) had done it in so long,” he said.
He advanced to the state tournament on a successful playback at the Mason-dominated regional tournament in Corpus Christi on April 12. Childs was the only player to advance who was not from Mason, a team Childs called a “tennis super power.”
The last time PAHS was represented at the state tennis tournament, it was the doubles team of Ali Fox and Brittney Tupaj on the courts. That 21-year drought is now broken.
At the state tournament, Childs was playing Luke Marshall, a regional champion from Albany (west of Fort Worth), in his opening match on Tuesday, April 26, at the Blossom Tennis Center in San Antonio. After playing Childs, Marshall suffered an injury during his next match and had to retire from the tournament.
Stepping onto the state tournament court, Childs said, “A lot of adrenalin was flowing. I’d been there (state) with cross-country, but not having a team behind me and in a completely different sport, it was different.”
He said the first set was a blur, “but then I settled down and battled out the last set,” acknowledging his opponent was a strong competitor.
Childs said he was physically ready for the match. “I was definitely in shape; not cross-country shape, but peak tennis form,” he said.
His coach, Vic Dimond, said, “Zach played much better and had chances in the second set, but just fell a little short.”
“He showed a lot of competitive spirit in coming back from being down 0-3 in the second set,” Dimond said.
“He had a fantastic season. I told him and his parents, ‘Zach, you broke our streak of not going to state for 21 years.’ They laughed at that,” the coach said.
His parents, Rebecca and David Neblett, attended the state tournament.
“They were totally pumped. I haven’t seen them get that excited in a long time; it was pretty cool,” Childs said.
“They went all out,” he said, “They made shirts, treats, “the whole nine yards,” he said.
“I’m proud of him; he’s a pleasure to coach,” Dimond said of Childs.
The admiration is mutual.
“I knew I was in good hands since my freshman year,” Childs said of Dimond.
Childs started private tennis lessons at age 6, shortly after moving to the U.S. from Herfordshire, England. Aside from that, he played with his family “every once in a while,” as his mother and one sister used to play tennis.
He didn’t play much after that until his seventh- and eighth-grade years at Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi.
Tennis was “not the school’s main sport – or even close,” he said. There weren’t many good players on the team, so he took on the backboard, an unforgiving opponent.
“ That’s where I think I found a passion for the sport and gained consistency in my shots,” he said.
Childs transferred to Port Aransas his freshman year because he had family, John Neblett and his twin sister Adelyn, who are his step-siblings, who attended PAHS.
“I was supposed to go to Ray (high school in Corpus Christi) and that wasn’t appealing. I was excited to come to Port Aransas,” Childs said.
What’s next for Childs? He plans to join the Al Kruse Tennis Center in Corpus Christi, so tennis will remain one of his hobbies.
He will attend Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the fall and hopes to transfer to a more specific engineering school, so he’s not sure where that will lead him.