There isn’t a Texoma tennis program more storied than the Vernon Lions. And this past week they reached another historic milestone.

For the first time in 20 years, Vernon is home to a team tennis state championship. It was complete domination by the Texoma talents.

“The only matches we lost all weekend were in the state final,” said Carrie Castleberry, Vernon Tennis Head Coach. “We went 19-0, 19-0, 10-0. Then in the finals it was 10-6.”

Castleberry was an assistant under Ruben Vargas the last time Vernon tennis won state. Now, she’s the head coach guiding the Lions to their first title under her leadership.

“There were three coaches in the last 35 years,” said senior Dane Kieschnick. “Dick Bell had won one. Then Ruben Vargas had won quite a few. And I just wanted to get one for her because I’ve had her as a coach for such a long time.”

“Coach Castleberry pours every bit of heart she has into this team,” added senior Kristina Urista. “She can be hard on us but she means well. I feel like you hear that all the time with coaches, but Castleberry, she’s been wanting it. And she knows we’ve been wanting it and we just kind of gave it to her.”

“I lost a lot of sleep leading up to this,” said Castleberry. “Because I knew what we had. I knew the team we had and I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on them. But also didn’t want them to under perform.”

No worries on that front. And this years success is a bit of a comeback story. Four years ago Vernon made it to the finals, at the time in Class 4A, finishing as state runners up.

“There are some teams in 3A that would whoop a lot of 4A teams and even 5A teams,” said Kieschnick. “There are some really good players. And a lot of those 3A teams thought they were going to beat us and we showed them wrong.”

“It wasn’t going to be much different,” added Urista. “The skill was there. It was just all about who wanted it more. This is Vernon tennis. We don’t take losing easily. So you’ve got to come out here and want it.”

“They were all lined up on the fence after every point,” said Castleberry. “They were kind of bouncing around and they knew. Just watching them see that last point.”

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The 2023 Lions landed on the right side of history.

NOTE: Former Vernon coach Dick Bell passed away just days before the Lions won the 2023 State Championship.