After earning gold in her first state appearance as a freshman in 2019, Slidell’s Jaden Coston planned to defend her title the following year.
COVID-19 served up a lob she couldn’t return, canceling last year’s state tournament.
Friday, Coston completed the interrupted title defense. She claimed her second 1A state girls singles tennis title in comeback fashion.
“Today was really exciting. It was so overwhelming winning,” Coston said. “I was super nervous for the final match because I hadn’t felt good the whole three days at the tournament.
“The competition at the state tournament was way better than what regionals was. The quarterfinal match was about on par with regionals. The girl I played in the semifinals took a little work to beat. But the girl I played against in the state final was really good. It took quite a bit of effort to win.”
Early in the state final, Coston trailed Knippa’s Olivia Faust. She knew she needed to pick up her game.
“There was a little bit of panic,” Coston said. “I got behind in the first two games. I looked up at the scoreboard and remember wondering, ‘What if I lose?’ I started playing a little better and managed to win that first set.
“I actually didn’t think about the fact I had won the first set until I was about halfway through the second. I was sitting at 3-0 and started to tell myself that I was almost there. I just finished it out from there.”
She won the match 6-3, 6-0.
Coston defeated Happy’s Sydni Middleton in the state quarterfinals Thursday 6-0, 6-2. She earned a chance to defend her 2019 title by winning her semifinal match 6-1, 6-1 against Mertzon Irion County’s Melanie Rainey.
She became Slidell’s first tennis champion in 2019, winning the 1A state title by defeating Comstock’s Madison Starkweather in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
With gold medals around her neck two years apart, Coston said the year away from high school tennis shows consistency in her game.
“My game has stayed consistent even though I lost my sophomore season,” Coston said. “I’ve been able to stay right with my opponents around me. I work a lot on my game outside of school. So although I didn’t play last year, I still kept working hard.”
As Coston prepares for her senior season, she has one goal in mind – going back to state to defend her title one last time.
“I want to win it again,” Coston said. “Although I’ve won it the past two years, I’m not bored with it. I’m actually more nervous than before. I’ve got to get my nerves under control because it was not awesome being as nervous as I was this year.”
Slidell coach Tyler Maynard likes Coston’s chances for a three-peat in her final campaign.
“I’m proud of the way Jaden played,” Maynard said. “Obviously, being the reigning champion really helped her because she’s been in there before. She had a lot of adversity to overcome, both on the court against the competition and in fighting her own nerves. Seeing her rally back to win was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.
“She’s technically the defending champion for three years in a row now, and I think she’s got a very good chance to do it again next year. Hopefully with everything she went through this year, it will help her. I think her chances will be even better than this year.”