Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Traditional powers Plano West, Highland Park seek state tennis titles
Plano West has built traditions around three state team tennis titles and 11 trips to the UIL state tournament. One of them is watching inspirational movies before big competitions.
“For regionals, we watched Top Gun,” coach Morgen Walker said. “For a 27-year-old movie, the kids love watching it. They know all the lines, and they still get mad when Goose dies.”
Plano West will make its third consecutive appearance at state this weekend in College Station. It plays Houston Memorial in a Class 5A semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday.
In Class 4A, Highland Park meets Montgomery at 9 a.m. The winners advance to Saturday’s finals.
Plano West is typically strong in doubles. Its mixed team features Adam Mlynarczyk and Maddy Thompson. Other pairings include Seema Prakash and Cassi Pollock, Emily Houston and Alahna Reto, and Brittney Bennett and Tori Simmons.
Learning doubles strategy is a key component of team tennis, with many players concentrating on singles play with private coaches. The format allows every seed to contribute, and teammates never compete against each other as they do in the individual state competition in the spring.
Plano West (23-2) needed its depth in a 10-9 victory over Austin Westlake in the regional final.
“You need 10 wins, and any one is as valuable as another,” Walker said. “Tennis is about making high-percentage shots. The high-percentage shots are different in doubles than singles, but it gets down to who makes the most of them.”
Walker has a long tennis history, including playing for the Class A state singles title in 1988 for Rochester, Texas.
During his decade-long tenure at Plano West, Walker has developed a routine for getting players ready for the state tournament, including references to another popular, inspirational movie, with a small-town Indiana basketball team with actor Gene Hackman portraying the coach in Hoosiers.
“We don’t get out and measure the court like Hackman does,” Walker said. “But we talk to the players about it being the same dimensions, the same game as they play anyplace else. Having been in the [state tournament] situation before, I know some things to do and not to do, and I try to teach them that.”
Highland Park is adding to its glossy résumé. Highland Park (21-0) has won 105 consecutive matches and is seeking a fifth straight state championship. It has beaten highly regarded 5A programs such as Plano West, state qualifier El Paso Coronado, Southlake Carroll, Allen and McKinney Boyd.
Dan Holden, Highland Park’s 13th-year coach, has plenty of experience with multiple state tournament teams. A key factor always is leadership, and senior team captains Maddie Gordon, Sarah Cannon, Avery Schober and John Daseke have been strong leaders.
“The kids are aware of [the state tournament] on the first day of practice,” Holden said. “They have high expectations of themselves, and there are a lot of siblings who have grown up with older brothers and sisters in the program. We’re fortunate enough to have a real sense of community around the tennis program.”UIL STATE TEAM TENNIS TOURNAMENT
(at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center)
SA Alamo Heights (17-2) vs. WF Rider (12-4)9 a.m.
Highland Park (21-0) vs. Montgomery (18-5)9 a.m.
Hou. Memorial (17-0) vs. Plano West (23-2)1 p.m.
New Braunfels (18-1) vs. EP Coronado (16-1)1 p.m.
Class 4A: 9 a.m.
Class 5A: 1 p.m.