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Westlake wants to know how its state title chances stand, and there’s one more “hurdle” in the path toward the Chaparrals seeing the finish clearly.
Two of the top tennis teams in the area – and state – square off today (Sept. 27) when Lake Travis hosts undefeated Westlake in battle of new rivals and district foes.
Coming off of a stellar performance last fall and spring, Westlake boasts quite possibly the strongest girls team in the state and has a solid boys side to ensure the Chaps will be a contender until the end this fall.
Westlake and Lake Travis, along with Westwood, which might have the strongest boys squad in the state, all went 4-0 at the A&M Consolidated Tournament two weeks ago, putting them at the top of the Class 5A heap.
“It’s not surprising Lake Travis and Westwood went 4-0 – Cen Tex tennis is big this year,” Westlake tennis coach Kim Riley said. “Thursday is a huge hurdle; we’ve prepared for the Lake Travis match all season. You hate to overlook other teams, but here’s our hurdle in our own backyard.”
Meredith Hopson, Casey Sutton, Fernanda Contreras, Jacqueline Patterson, Raina Kishan, Hannah Sutton and Ali Young front the girls side of the team, which has won virtually every match this fall as Westlake has run out to a 14-0 record.
“We played some tough matches, but we’ve come out on top every time so far hopefully we can continue that,” Patterson said. “We’re feeling pretty good going into Lake Travis match, but we don’t want to get cocky. Just keep our head on our shoulders and know it takes one point at a time, and we have to be consistent.”
Patterson and Ian Kocher have formed a formidable doubles duo, and the big match Thursday could likely come down to doubles play all-around.
While the boys side of the Westlake tennis team have fared well so far, taking a few wins against the Cavaliers could boost the team’s confidence even further.
“Coming into this year, I definitely knew we had a pretty solid team, but we’ve kind of impressed ourselves honestly because we’ve beaten some good teams by good margins,” Kocher said. “We’re all really close as a team, and this really matters to us because we want to make it to state.”
Contreras remains one of the top players for the Chaps, and the sophomore believes that the bonds built last season and this summer are putting Westlake at a team advantage.
Though the team has not lost this season, losses from last season still fuel their play.
“We’re playing really, really good,” Contreras said. “It’s really close competition for each of us because it’s different [style for each of us]. Meredith plays a lot of ground strokes, Casey smashes the ball, Jacqueline moves a lot; it’s good because each of us has different qualities. It makes for a good bond. We’ve been together for a year, and we’ve had happy moments when we won and sad moments when we’ve lost.”
Nemo Niess and Charles Tan return from a season ago and form a strong doubles duo in addition to their solid singles play. The Chap teammates credited on and off court repetitions for the boys side playing beyond what they might have expected before the season began.
“We thought at the beginning of the year we would struggle more than we have, but the lower lines have definitely stepped up,” Niess said. “Over the summer we spent a lot of time together, not only at practice but going to dinners, too.”
Tan and the Chaps realize that the match against Lake Travis is a measuring stick as well as a determinate, as home-court advantage for the likely district finale will be decided Thursday as well.
Last season, Westlake topped Lake Travis 10-9 in team tennis.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Lake Travis because we had a really close match last year,” Tan said. “It’s kind of the prequel to what’s going to happen at districts, I think. We get to see what their team is like, and they get to see what our team is like and how it matches up.”
With the ease of the Westlake wins over normal 5A powerhouses Klein, College Park and The Woodlands, the team has a higher-than-ever confidence level.
“That weekend gave us a lot of confidence because we handled those teams really well and they’re state-class teams,” Kocher said.
Rather than downplaying the match, Westlake is embracing the match against Lake Travis.
“That’s really important because they’re a big rival now that they’ve moved up to 5A; they’re in our district,” Tan said. “We’re hoping we can win it, and I think we can. It’s probably the most important match of the year so far.”
Contreras said the team needs to keep a focus as if every match was still going down to the wire, despite the early success.
“We need to focus more because these last matches have been so easy, and now they’re going to be really tough,” she said. “We need to focus more because it could go the other way around.”
Even in a difficult region, Westlake has plans beyond the district tournament when the time comes.
“I think we’re definitely going to make it to the regional finals,” Niess said. “We have some tough teams in our region and it’s going to be tough, but I think we can do well. Hopefully.”
Lake Travis hosts Westlake at 4 p.m. today (Sept. 27).
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