Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Tennis roundup: Highland Park takes four of five titles; Madison’s Loftis can't make DISD history
AUSTIN — The class of 4A, the Highland Park tennis team won four of a possible five state titles at the UIL state tournament Tuesday at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
It was Scots against Scots in the mixed doubles and girls doubles finals, with boys singles the lone category in which Highland Park didn’t have a finalist.
Highland Park’s mixed doubles duo of Connor LaFavre and Margo Taylor repeated as state champions, besting teammates Avery Schober and Sarah Cannon, 6-2, 6-4.
“The beginning I was a little nervous,” LaFavre said. “It’s tough playing your teammates, and we played them a lot this year. But it makes it a lot easier to play, [knowing] at least someone will win from Highland Park.”
Schober and Cannon had gotten the better of LaFavre and Taylor with a win in the regional tournament.
In the other all-Highland Park showdown, Nan Porter and Chandler Carter got past teammates Maddie Gordon and Elizabeth Burgos, 6-1, 6-1, in the 4A girls doubles final.
Afterward, all the Highland Park players gathered to celebrate the team’s efforts. The team had a record 13 participants at the state tournament and tied a school record with four titles.
Coach Dan Holden gave his doubles teams some tips beforehand, then stayed far away from the court during both matches.
“I told them, ‘We’re close, don’t do anything out there that would jeopardize that,’” he said of the bonds within the team. “Compete your tails off, obviously, because everyone wants to win the same. But treat each other with respect.’ That’s what it’s about, because at the end of the day you’re still teammates.”
HP duo wins this time: Sensing the match was getting away from them, Luke Stainback and Hunter Holman refused to have a repeat of 2012.
Last season, the Highland Park boys doubles team lost in the state final. After dropping the second set Tuesday, Stainback and Holman beat Henry Adams and John King of San Antonio Alamo Heights, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
“Last year we got so close, this year it felt good to finally get on top and rise to the occasion,” Stainback said. “About the middle of the third set we started ripping our returns and making plays and getting first serves in, just getting pressure on them and being aggressive. That’s when things started to change.”
Freshman wins quickly: Highland Park freshman Elizabeth Porter swiftly took care of business to capture her first state title, winning, 6-1, 6-2, over Pearland Dawson’s Kelly Zhu, last year’s state runner-up. No player has won a state title all four years at Highland Park.
Back-to-back titles: McKinney North’s Jordan Hart won his second straight 4A boys singles state title, drawing on his 2012 triumph to close out a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Jonah Candelario of Alamo Heights. Hart become his school’s first two-time state champion.
“I was a little nervous to begin with; it’s harder to defend your title,” he said. “It’s more of a relief afterward than anything. The final, you never know what can happen, and the nerves were still there from last year.”
Madison 15-year-old can’t make history: Madison’s Bradley Loftis — a 15-year-old eighth-grader — lost, 6-0, 6-1, to defending champion Rayce Roberson of Abilene Wylie in the 3A boys singles final in College Station. Had he won, Loftis would have been the first Dallas ISD boys tennis state champion since 1929.
“This is paramount for Dallas ISD, as well as the great James Madison High School,” said James Madison athletic coordinator Ronald Johnson, who was in attendance at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. “We sort of feel like state champions because Bradley has put us on the map. He’s worked hard. We’re on our way somewhere, and we’re excited about what he’s accomplished.”
Loftis will have three years of eligibility remaining and could meet up with Roberson, a junior, again next year. Loftis could only focus on the future following the loss.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match because he did win last year,” Loftis said. “My feeling is I’m ready for next year. I’m ready to do it again.”
Madison coach Yolanda Harris also took an optimistic view.
“I know he wanted to win this one for the community and Dallas ISD, but this is just a real good experience for him to just be here,” Harris said. “He still can make history next year and the year after. So I know it seems so big for this year, but it was just big for him to be here.”
Freelance writer Sean Lester in College Station contributed to this report.