Pressure is nothing new to Kyle Totorica.
Reagan's freshman phenom has been playing tennis at an elite level for nearly 10 years. He's currently ranked as one of the top five players in the state of Texas for the class of 2022. But transitioning to high school play alongside his fellow Rattlers -- and shouldering the weight of playing in No. 1 singles -- brought a new kind of pressure as he prepared to compete at the Region IV Tournament in mid-April.
"I was the No. 1 seed, so I was expected to win," Totorica explained. "I had to put that in the back of my mind so I could focus on every match. I've played a lot of tournaments so I'm used to a pressure situation."
"Any time you get a talented player, you get excited and want to see that talent progress," said head coach David Daniel. "He's pretty polished on the singles side. We've worked on his strength. It's a little different sometimes being a 15-year-old playing an 18-year-old. Trying to match up with someone a little more mature physically has been something that we've focused on."
Totorica tore through his early-round matches and took care of business in the championship match, topping Austin Westlake's Daniel French in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. He did not drop a single set in any of his four regional matches. The victory clinched a berth at the UIL State Tournament, just the second freshman in Rattlers program history to accomplish the feat.
"I expected to make it this far since I've worked pretty hard on my entire game, trying to perfect everything," Totorica said.
"Boys singles is always a wringer," Daniel said. "Even though he was seeded first and we felt he was the best player coming in, we were still nervous. You want to make sure everything happens okay, and he handled himself very well. Any time we qualify anyone for state, we celebrate it and we're pretty excited about it because it's so difficult. We're very pleased with his performance and will continue to expect great things from him."
With almost a month between the regional tournament and state, Totorica has had plenty of time to rest, recover and return to form. He also has two factors in his favor as he prepares for his quarterfinal match -- experience playing at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A&M University, and playing against his opening-round opponent, Katy Taylor's Christopher Cequea-Rivero.
"I've played against him a few times," Totorica said of Cequea-Rivero. "I'm pretty confident going into the match and I know what I need to do. It'll be exciting. There will be a lot of people there. I just need to focus on playing my game and not let anything else get to me."
Totorica will face Cequea-Rivero in the UIL State quarterfinals Thursday, May 16 at 8 a.m.
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