Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Highland Park tennis program builds legacy of success led by doubles teams
UNIVERSITY PARK — As they defend their Class 4A mixed doubles championship, Highland Park’s Connor LaFavre and Margo Taylor will face tough teams from around the state. But their fiercest opponent could be one they see every day.
“The most competition is probably on our own team,” LaFavre said.
That’s nothing new for Highland Park, which often has several state qualifiers in doubles. The Scots had five of them last year, and had a team in the championship match of each of the doubles brackets: boys, girls and mixed.
“This year, we’ve got a legitimate shot at winning the girls doubles, the boys doubles and the mixed,” coach Dan Holden said. “We’re very blessed.”
And very dedicated to doubles. The Highland Park players have private coaches who work with them away from the school, and they get lots of singles instruction then. So at HP’s tennis facility, there’s a heavy dose of doubles.
“Even if you don’t play in the doubles lineup, you still practice doubles,” LaFavre said. “We’re kind of just expected to know how to play singles.”
The Highland Park players do know how to play singles, of course. Most of them have been competing for years in USTA tournaments. But Highland Park has built its team-tennis dynasty — with nine state titles in the last 10 years — on doubles success. The Scots have won 107 straight team-tennis matches, including a 10-0 shutout of San Antonio Alamo Heights in November’s championship match.
Highland Park won all seven of the doubles matches in that championship to clinch the title before nine of the singles matches were completed.
“Doubles has always been our No. 1 priority in team tennis because of the format,” said Holden, who has coached the Scots since 2000. “You win five or six doubles matches and you’ve got some momentum.”
And when the spring arrives, and UIL tennis turns from team to individual competition, Highland Park is set up for doubles success. This year, Taylor and LaFavre are one of four Scots doubles teams that could win a state title.
The top boys doubles team is Luke Stainback and Hunter Holman, state finalists last year. The team of Nan Porter and Chandler Carter could win in girls doubles, and the Taylor/LaFavre team will have tough competition from fellow Scots Avery Schober and Sarah Cannon. Schober was a state quarterfinalist in boys doubles last year and Cannon, teamed with Alin Piranian, won the girls doubles title in 2011. They came up one win short of a repeat last year, which ended HP’s streak of seven straight girls doubles titles.
“Doubles is what we do in practice every day, and the kids really buy into it,” Holden said. “I’d say that 98 percent or 99 percent of the kids really like the team atmosphere.”
They certainly like the results.
“It was really exciting,” Taylor said of last year’s title, which included losing a mere six games in three state matches.
“You can say you’re the best in the state,” LaFavre said.
Saying you’re the best at Highland Park is nearly as impressive.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.
April 15-18: UIL regional tournaments, various sites
April 24-25: TAPPS state tournament
April 29-30: UIL state tournament
May 3-4: SPC state tournament
Big tourney in Allen
Some favorites for regional and state titles should emerge at this weekend’s Eagle Invitational, which will include players from 16 schools on Allen’s tennis courts. Play begins at 8 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Schools competing: Allen, Frisco, Highland Park, Lovejoy, McKinney Boyd, Plano, Plano West, Southlake Carroll, Lubbock, Lubbock Coronado, Amarillo, San Angelo Central, Wichita Falls, Wichita Falls Rider, Austin Westwood, Midland Lee.