Ridge Point High School’s mixed doubles tennis team of Mario Dominguez and Jada Hill come from different athletic backgrounds and have taken different journeys to their senior seasons. They also are in their first year playing together on the court.
But from their fluid play and exploits this season, one would likely think the two seniors were a seasoned team with years of experience. And that chemistry has led to a historic journey with an ending yet to be written.
“It doesn’t take much to say to know what we’re going to do. (The chemistry) has just naturally been there. I don’t know how it got so good since this is our first year playing,” Hill said with a laugh. “But it’s a lot easier when you genuinely like the person you’re playing with.”
Hill, a former volleyball player, and Dominguez, who played soccer until picking up a racket at 12 years old, have run through the Class 6A mixed doubles competition for much of the season. They won the district championship on April 15 to become Ridge Point’s first players to reach the regional tournament. Two weeks later, the pair made even more history as the Panthers’ first qualifiers for the UIL state tournament.
Hill and Dominguez will play Lake Travis’ William Wang and Valerie Alexeykin in the 6A state quarterfinals at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Northside Tennis Center in San Antonio. They are one of three local teams who have doubles teams in the state tournament, joining Clements’ Sydnie Durham and Gabriel Shu in 6A mixed doubles. Stafford’s Ariane and Yvette Karera will represent the area in Class 4A girls doubles.
“When we’re on the court, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Her strengths are her serve and her ground strokes,” Dominguez said. “She can rally off the ball and I’ll be there at the net to put it away and vice versa. We know each other, and we capitalize on that.”
Ridge Point head coach Charles Jenkins likened the pair to fire and ice on the court as they have complementary skill sets and personalities, which allow them to weather any storm during a match.
“Jada brings this level of energy and intensity every time she steps on the court, then Mario always has a calm and smooth approach to this game,” Jenkins said. “They have this balance that just works.”
Hill said she began playing tennis when was 10 years old, though she did not begin pursuing the sport in earnest until reaching high school and deciding to focus on bettering her chances of playing at the next level.
“I just realized I would be a lot better at tennis,” said Hill, who will play collegiately next fall at Prairie View A&M. “My goal was always to go and play until at least college, and I knew I would have a better opportunity to do that in tennis than volleyball. Then I started to win more tournaments a lot faster than a lot of younger kids did, so I kind of stuck with it.”
Dominguez, who will play at the University of Texas at Dallas, said he was a soccer player from age 4 until picking up tennis around middle school.
“All my other friends were playing it, so I kind of didn’t want to be left out. Then my dad got me a coach who told me that if I wanted to improve I needed to play in a lot of tournaments,” he said. “The transition wasn’t really that bad, because I could use the footwork from soccer and translate that into tennis, so that helped a lot.”
The two also had diverging paths even after choosing to pursue the sport full-time. Dominguez has been on the Panthers’ varsity team since his freshman year, whereas Hill played her freshman year before choosing to be homeschooled for the next two years. She then returned to Ridge Point for her senior season.
And from the moment they were joined, they took off.
“These two came in on fire,” Jenkins said. “They play without fear, and that’s why they’re able to get to this level.”
Hill and Dominguez both admitted that as the season progressed, it was hard to not let the prospect of making school history enter their minds.
“Jada and I wanted to try and surpass (what’s been done) and be the first ones to make it to state,” Dominguez said.
As opposed to distracting them or making them look past opponents, both players said their stated objective was their biggest driving factor as they try to put Ridge Point tennis on the map. The school opened in 2010.
“Ever since freshman year, my goal was to make it to state. Even my sophomore and junior years, my goal was always to come back (to Ridge Point) and make it,” Hill said. “It was a sense of relief that we actually did it.”
As they reflect on this year’s journey, which is still not over, they’re as focused as ever on the ultimate prize – winning a state championship and further securing their spot in Ridge Point lore.
However, they’re also trying to not lose sight of what both say drew them to the sport in the first place.
“We’re always having fun out on the court, and we’re never letting negative energy get to us or affect our game play,” Dominguez said. “We’re trying to have fun – and we’re having fun winning these matches.”