Saturday’s annual Plano West/Highland Park Fall Team Tennis Tournament authored the latest chapter in the longstanding rivalry between the host Wolves and Allen — both of whom ended last season ranked among the state’s top five teams.
The Wolves and Eagles still figure to rank among the state’s elite this season, but they’ll have to wait another month before squaring off with a full deck. Be it injuries, SAT testing or other tennis commitments, West and Allen waged two days of tournament play without several members of their lineup — with the Eagles ultimately placing third and West fourth.
“We went 3-1 over the weekend and played some really good teams. I think us and West both have a full roster next time we meet and I’m sure the intensity isn’t going to change,” said Justin Quest, Allen head coach. “But I was really impressed with the way we came out of the weekend. I feel like we got better as a team.”
“A lot of young kids got an opportunity to play and picked up a couple wins on Friday. We had a couple tough matches on Saturday and had some opportunities to pull some matches out,” added Morgen Walker, West head coach. “Overall, I’m not too disappointed. We’re going to improve and keep getting better and obviously when we have everybody there we’ll be as tough as anybody.”
West and Allen locked horns in the event’s third-place match after dropping their respective semifinals — the Wolves fell to Coppell, 10-7, and Allen was edged by eventual tournament champ Highland Park, 10-6. A hot start in doubles fueled the Eagles to a 6-1 advantage over their district rivals — enough of a lead to withstand West winning 6-of-10 matches in singles play.
“We were both missing some folks due to testing and injuries, but it was a good dual,” Quest said. “It’s never a non-competitive match when West and Allen get together. Usually, the intensity ramps up a bit, which is always fun.”
“They had been told going in what to expect. I think they saw what they expected from both teams,” Walker added. “Those younger players learned how to get out there and compete with teams like that. Team tennis is new to a lot of the young ones and they’re figuring out real quick what it means to be a team and not a bunch of individuals.”
The Wolves ended their tournament at 2-2, juxtaposing losses to Allen and Coppell opposite wins over Fayetteville (10-1) and Keller (10-0). Allen, meanwhile, picked up wins over Bentonville (10-0) and Katy Seven Lakes (14-5) before falling to Highland Park in the semis.
“We battled those guys really hard. I was proud of the way we stepped up and met those guys head on,” Quest said. “We were down 3-4 in doubles and had a couple match points with a chance to go up. We lost a few close ones in singles … but I feel like we were the team that played them the toughest.”
With Allen and West tussling on one half of the bracket, Plano Senior and Plano East found their way on the consolation side after dropping their respective tournament openers. The Wildcats, who qualified for the playoffs last season in District 9-6A, went 2-2 overall with wins over Fayetteville (10-1) and A&M Consolidated (10-5) before dropping the consolation match to Amarillo (10-4).
East went 0-2 for the event, falling to Longview (10-5) and Belton (11-6).
Those two, plus Allen and West, kicked off their respective district schedules this week, with the Eagles besting Plano, 14-5, and West topping Jesuit, 11-5. Last season saw Allen and West both advance to the regional tournament and the two are among the contenders in what both Walker and Quest expect to be another loaded Region II with reigning Class 6A state champion Round Rock Westwood and The Woodlands.
The regional finalist Eagles sport a deep, experienced girls lineup with veterans like Elodie Richard, Jordan Mitchell, Macie Wu and Jaci Walker, plus promising freshman Grace Swenson. Meanwhile, the boys side looks to withstand some key graduates with the rise of freshman Tejas Ram and move-in Avery Zavala.
“Expectations are high. This is a team that has been to the regional final before, and I think this team understands how to win those big matches and they’re ready to take that next step and try to qualify for state,” Quest said.
The Wolves aren’t lacking in balance either, with Caden Moortgat, Arjun Kersten and Kishan Kersten (none of whom participated in last week’s tournament) anchoring the boys lineup, with Estefania Hernandez, Summer Shannon, Elyssa Ducret and standout freshman Julia Lee among the options at coach Walker’s disposal on the girls side.
The Eagles and Wolves rematch on Sept. 27 in Plano.
“They’re very good and it’s going to take someone really good to beat them. Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough the other day, but we’ve got another shot at them next month,” coach Walker said.