Written by SportsDayDFW.com
State-bound Highland Park, Plano West tennis teams have veterans leading newcomers
The faces change, but Highland Park’s team tennis dominance remains constant.
The Scots, riding a six-year, 127 dual-match victory string, seek their sixth consecutive Class 4A state title at the UIL State Tournament on Monday and Tuesday in College Station.
Highland Park (20-0) meets 2012 finalist San Antonio Alamo Heights in a semifinal at 1 p.m. Monday. A win would place the Scots in the championship match against Montgomery or Lubbock on Tuesday afternoon.
The state tournament appearance is No. 26 for Highland Park. The Scots have returned with the top prize 14 times, including nine of the last 10.
New Braunfels was the last team to defeat Highland Park. It came in the 2007 state final. The Scots haven’t lost since.
Highland Park coach Dan Holden is aware of the winning streak but has to double-check to verify the exact number.
“It is a tribute to our kids for how hard they fight and compete,” Holden said. “People see some of our 10-0, 10-1 scores and believe all we have to do is show up. What they don’t see are the tough individual matches within a match. We go into every tournament knowing if we don’t play our best, we could lose.”
Seven Highland Park players will be playing in their first state tournament. That’s where the leadership of captains Connor LaFavre, Hunter Holman, Darby Strickland and Elizabeth Burgos comes in handy.
Burgos, a senior doubles player, said her message for the young players is to treat state like any other tournament.
“One thing our coach stresses is to be calm and cool and show little emotion,” Burgos said.
Said Holden: “As a team, I’d say we improved 20 to 25 percent this fall.”
Plano West streaking, too: Plano West remains the area’s dominant Class 5A team tennis program, earning its fourth straight state tournament appearance and its 12th in 15 years.
The Wolves (19-4) will face New Braunfels in a 9 a.m. semifinal Monday.
Plano West had to navigate past District 10-5A rival Allen. The teams met five times with Plano West winning four, including a 10-4 victory in the Region II title match.
“It was to our benefit to play Allen five times,” said Plano West coach Morgen Walker.
The Wolves defeated Allen in an early tournament, in district and the district tournament, each time with Allen closing the gap. Allen took the area match, 10-8.
“It was a wakeup call for us,” Walker said.
Plano West has a young team that began the season stronger on the girls side with five returnees.
Eight Plano West players have played in at least one state tournament. It will be the fourth trip for senior Seema Prakash. Anshul Pandey, Alahna Reto and Tiffany Hollebeck will be making their third state appearance. Hollebeck’s previous two were for New Braunfels, her former school.
The Plano West-New Braunfels winner will face Houston Memorial or El Paso Coronado in Tuesday’s title match.