Emphatic wins in their first two regular season matches gave the varsity tennis team the start they were looking for going into their midweek game against Westwood, Sept. 1. The wins pleased head coach Kim Riley who stressed the value of a strong start.
“It’s really important [to get early wins] because a lot of things are based off your pre-season before you get into District play,” Riley said. “A lot of rankings are based on that, and when you’re playing a team that’s ranked pretty highly in State or has some good wins early on, it helps mentally, and tennis is such a mental game. It helps us win some early doubles points in some matches where we would have struggled a bit.”
Although the team expected it to be a close game, Westlake beat San Antonio Reagan by a decisive 15-2 scoreline. This came on the heels of a 18-1 defeat of Cedar Park on Thursday, Aug. 25, which gave players confidence going into the weekend’s match. The Reagan game was especially important because of the new implications behind it.
“They are in our new area now that we’re in a new District, District 25-6A, and they’re in District 26-6A,” Riley said. “They’re going to have to be a team to beat or at least match up with in order to make it to Regionals.”
Before the season began, Riley stressed how important it would be to have early season success before their tougher games in the middle of the season, so they can carry momentum into those matchups.
“Our District foes now, Lake Travis and Vandegrift, we play them later, so it would be great to get four or five wins under our belt before we hit them,” Riley said.
A large part of the success can be attributed to a boys group that’s lead by juniors Roger Chou and AJ Valenty and senior Marcus Sweeney. While Roger and AJ are just juniors, Riley was quick to point out they share three years of varsity experience each and have earned the leadership roles. While there is added pressure to being a leader for the team, the trio is focused on getting on the court and playing their game.
“It feels a lot different,” AJ said. “I’ve been on the team for two years. This is my third year. I’ve been on since I was a freshman, and so I’ve been so used to being always put down. I’m really excited for the season this year.
With an impressive regular season record last year, there is a sense of expectation for the team to build off of that. However, many of the players voiced their concern with getting too optimistic too early.
“This year is going to be a lot harder than it has been in the past because last year we had a more solid team,” senior Alex Reinhart said. “Now it’s going to be really close matches between everybody. Before we’ve always had an easy win over Lake Travis, but this year I’m not really sure.”
At the same time, Riley feels that this could be the year the Chaps make it back to State for the first time in almost a decade. With new District and Regional alignments, it’ll be a chance for the team to redefine themselves from the past and create a fresh start.
“We haven’t been to State since the Fall of ‘07 and I’d really like to get this team in particular [to State],” Riley said. “We have enough experience in order to get back there. We barely missed going there last year. We had a close match with Highland Park to get there. We actually had a win over New Braunfels who were the eventual State champions, and I feel that we were so close that I hope this team can build on that experience from last year and hopefully get back there.”