The third time was indeed the charm for the Plano West tennis team.
After coming up one win short of a Class 6A state championship the past two seasons, incurring runner-up finishes at the hands of Houston Memorial and Round Rock Westwood, the Wolves reclaimed their spot on top Friday at Texas A&M University.
What had the makings of a special postseason from the onset culminated in decisive fashion as West defeated Austin Lake Travis, 10-3, in the 6A state final to capture the sixth UIL championship in program history.
“Each one of that I’ve been a part of feels a little different. This was very gratifying, the way the team pulled together over the course of the year and just refused to go down,” said Morgen Walker, West head coach. “Seeing kids battle for matches, games and sets, it was a lot of fun. Just the sheer competitiveness of the kids showed up this year, especially these last couple of weeks.”
Winning state for the first time since 2016, the Wolves followed a familiar script on Friday. West swept all three boys doubles matches, including straight-set wins for the tandems of Kishan Kersten and Ethan Scribner (6-1, 6-0) and Gopal Koduri and Anirudh Reddy (6-3, 6-2). Kevin Xie and Cody Huang were just as emphatic in winning mixed doubles by sets of 6-0, 6-1.
But as Lake Travis countered with victories on its Nos. 1 and 3 girls doubles lines, the tide swayed in West’s favor on the strength of nip-and-tuck wins by Summer Shannon and Emma Thoms in No. 2 girls doubles and Dmitri Goubin and Utham Koduri in No. 2 boys doubles.
Shannon and Thoms took the first set over Lake Travis’ Jacqueline Creel and Adrianna Peradoza 6-3 but had to rally from a 4-1 deficit to overtake the Cavalier duo 7-5 in the second stanza.
“That was one I definitely wanted to get. We knew going in that it would be a very competitive match and I thought we had a good shot at winning that one,” Walker said. “… I was really happy for those two — just seeing a senior and freshman out there competing like they’ve played together forever.”
The only three-set bout of the afternoon, Goubin and Utham Koduri alternated sets of 6-4 with Austin Beckham and Anmay Devaraj — shrugging off a second-set loss and turning in a commanding 10-3 win in the tiebreaker to stake West to a 5-2 lead at the turn.
“In that tiebreaker, those two stepped up and really brought it. They really got after them and that tiebreaker was never in doubt,” Walker said. “They were up 8-1 at one point before closing it out. They earned it, for sure.”
The fine line between a potential 3-4 deficit at the turn and a 5-2 lead, West capitalized with a torrid start to singles play. The Wolves won the first set in all six boys matches and a trio of girls bouts. The race to 10 points fell on singles victories by Kersten (7-5, 6-2), Utham Koduri (6-0, 6-1), Goubin (6-2, 6-4), Gopal Koduri (6-2, 6-3) and Huang (6-0, 4-2 retired). Walker said the match’s 10th point was won by Goubin moments after Kersten scored his straight-set victory.
“Once singles got started, we just got on them pretty hard. We got the first set in probably seven or eight matches pretty quick,” Walker said.
It was a fitting coda to an otherwise resounding postseason for a West team ranked No. 1 in 6A all season by the Texas Tennis Coaches Association. In total, the Wolves outscored their seven playoff opponents 73-8 — preceding Friday’s 10-3 victory with wins over Denton Guyer (10-0), Richardson Pearce (12-0), Allen (10-2), Keller (10-0), Southlake Carroll (10-2) and The Woodlands (11-1). West’s final five opponents all ranked in the state’s top 11 by the TTCA.
“It’s a huge luxury to have the kind of depth and talent that we’ve got on the boys side, and I can’t say enough about our girls, too,” Walker said. “They stepped up, competed and got after it in singles as well. It was fun to see them all play like that.”
Friday’s win also capped a whirlwind past month for Walker, who won the 500th match of his coaching career on Sept. 28 against Hebron. That match came in the middle of what ends up being a 17-match winning streak as West closed out its 2021 fall campaign at 20-1 overall — and with a state championship to show for it.
“Every year is a little bit different. Just the way this team really pulled together as a unit and truly pulled for each other and had that goal in mind,” Walker said. “Especially the last couple weeks, seeing them start stepping up no matter who was on the court and giving everything they’ve got. When you’re getting that, it’s special.
“Every year is different, but this group is a good one and one that I won’t forget anytime soon.”