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Lion tennis hosts 2009 Hwy 287 Tournament

Young doubles teams raise their game on home turf
There’s not a bigger event throughout the year at the Lion Tennis Center than what went down this past Friday and Saturday.
Lion tennis hosted its Hwy 287 Tournament in conjunction with Waxahachie. There were 17 schools in action with some of the best players in the region participating. Team standings as decided by total points were as follows: T-1. Wichita Falls Old High (123); T-1. Wichita Falls Rider (123); 3. Texas High (113); T-4. Midway (105); T-4. Corsicana (105); 6. Lindale (92); 7. Tyler Lee (85); 8. Belton (73); 9. Rockwall Heath (70); 10. Groesbeck (68); 11. Ennis (63); 12. Arlington Bowie (45); 13. Midlothian (43); 14. Waxahachie (41); 15. Nacogdoches (26); 16. Whitehouse (13); 17. Kerens (12).
“We had a great time with the tournament,” said Lion coach Keith Howard.
“It wasn’t quite as tough as in years past because the McKinney and Frisco schools all stayed up there for a tournament in McKinney, but it was still really difficult. It hurt us not to field teams in all the draws (boys’ A-singles, boys’ B-singles, Mixed B-doubles), but a number of schools did the same.”

Lady Lions emphasize teamwork
Ennis earned its most points (15) in girls’ B-doubles, thanks to a great showing by sophomores Valeria Garza and Marisela Almanza. They went 3-1 to emerge with a second-place finish.
“We were pumped to see them finish second,” Howard said.
“It was their first time to play together this spring with Marisela coming off an injury, but we expect a lot out of them and they showed why.”
The two have been a doubles tandem since the seventh grade and they’re set to be Ennis’ top girls’ duo next season.
“We talk a lot more now during matches to keep each other under control [emotionally] and also talk about our gameplan,” Almanza said.
“As we kept winning, we gained more confidence and that helped. I think next year we’ll do even better.”
Garza and Almanza opened with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Arlington Bowie and then beat a Midway pairing 7-5 and 6-0.
“We played really well [against Bowie] and that one wasn’t a problem,” Garza said.
“Midway was another match we played really well; we didn’t think much about how good their [program’s] players are and that helped.”
Garza and Almanza really stepped up with a 6-4 and 7-5 win over a Wichita Falls Old High duo before losing to a Rider pairing (2-6, 1-6) in the finals.
“Old High was pretty tough, but we played our best to get the win,” Garza said.
“Rider was definitely the best team we played, but we weren’t aggressive enough at times. [Marisela’s] volleys are really good and my serving has improved.”
“Old High is a top-five program in the state, so that was a great win,” Howard added.
“The score didn’t show how good their Rider match was. Those two work very well together; they’re intense and very scrappy.”
In girls’ A-doubles, seniors Erica Price and Lorena Loera went 2-2 to finish seventh. They opened up with a win over Lindale (6-4, 7-6), followed by losses to Rider and Waxahachie, ending with a win over Groesbeck. The defeat to Waxahachie’s top duo actually came from a 9-11 loss in the third-set tiebreaker, evening the season series between the two teams at 1-1.
“It was anybody’s match [against Waxahachie] and a tough loss, but [Price and Loera] won the first meeting in straight sets,” Howard said.
“It wasn’t a bad showing in a tough draw.”
Another one of Ennis’ highlights in the tournament actually came from a doubles team not scheduled to compete whose success didn’t count in the points standings. There was an extra spot in the girls’ A-doubles draw, so Howard entered the freshman tandem of Kerri Kirkpatrick and Allyson Skuza for an opportunity to garner tourney experience.
After a 1-6, 2-6 loss to an Old High team that finished second, the youngsters ran the table to win consolation. They beat teams from Tyler Lee (6-3, 6-3), Arlington Bowie (8-2) and Texas High (8-3) along the way.
“Those girls have great attitudes and play together so well,” Howard said.
“Every match seemed easy after their opener [vs. Old High].”
In girls’ A-singles, Alexis Wotton finished 1-3 in a loaded draw to take ninth place. Opening with a win against Whitehouse (6-1, 6-2), Alexis found the going tougher vs. Rockwall Heath (4-6, 7-6, 2-6), Lindale (2-6, 1-6) and Old High (2-8). To illustrate how difficult Alexis’ opposition was, the Lindale player she faced has finished third and fourth at the regional tournament the past two years.
“Alexis didn’t feel like she played her best, but the competition in that draw was fierce,” Howard said.
In girls’ B-singles, freshman Britney Sibley went 2-2 to finish 12th. After losses to Groesbeck (3-6, 3-6) and Belton (4-6, 2-6), Britney bounced back to beat players from Whitehouse and Waxahachie.
“Any success for freshmen is big because they’re gaining experience that will mean so much to them down the road,” Howard said.

Lions swing for
doubles’ success
The most successful Lion tandem proved to be Morgan Graham and Patrick Larson in the boys’ A-doubles draw. After dominating Arlington Bowie (6-0, 6-0), the pair earned a huge victory over Midway (6-1, 6-2).
Unfortunately, they fell on hard times from there against Old High (5-7, 3-6) and Corsicana (1-8) to finish fourth. Larson said the opener wasn’t about Bowie being bad, so much as it was about him and Morgan playing consistent doubles.
“We played lights out against Midway and it was one of our best matches so far,” Graham said.
“If we could get to beat anybody, it would probably be them,” Larson added.
“They just outclassed Bowie,” Howard said.
“Against Midway, the guys got out in front and never let up. Patrick and Morgan just had their number that day.”
Larson said they had a good shot to beat Old High, but the opposition just came up with some great shots. As for the Corsicana loss, Patrick expects to get another chance vs. the Tigers after he and Morgan didn’t have their best in their tourney finale.
“The Old High match was a very good one,” Howard said.
“Some points here and there didn’t go our way, but we were all over them with our net play and put pressure on them. The guys were flat against Corsicana coming off the Old High match, but you can’t have a letdown against a good team like that.”
“I thought we could make it to the finals; we just didn’t play very well in our last couple of matches,” Graham said.
“We’re definitely more consistent as a doubles team now than when we first played together in the fall,” Larson added.
“We both attack the net every time.”
Also competing in boys’ A-doubles, Mario Jiron and Brooks Graham lost in the opening round to the eventual champs from Texas High. From there, they lost to Nacogdoches, beat Whitehouse and lost to Rockwall Heath to finish 14th.
“It was the first time for Mario and Brooks to play together and they went up against some strong competition,” Howard said.
In boys’ B-doubles, the combo of freshman Casey Crow and Alex May went 3-1 to finish fifth. Opening with a win over Rockwall Heath (3-6, 6-4, 6-3), Crow and May lost to Texas High (5-7, 2-6), beat Nacogdoches and then topped Groesbeck.
“That’s a good finish that earned a lot of points for our team,” Howard said.
“They’ve been doing a great job together this spring.”
In mixed A-doubles, freshman John Lane and Erin Sibley faced a tall task in their first tourney together – going 2-2 to finish 11th. After a loss to Old High (1-6, 0-6), they beat Whitehouse (6-2, 6-3), lost to Bowie (3-8) and then beat Belton.
“They were solid for their first time in a difficult tournament,” Howard said.

Looking forward
After the tourney concluded on Saturday, the No. 7 Baylor women faced No. 10 Miami in the Lion Tennis Center from about 5-10:30 p.m. By night’s end, Baylor prevailed in a 4-2 victory. It marked the first time Baylor has made the trip this school year, but the tennis center has been the university’s go-to indoor site for years.
“Opposing teams have the option to come up here to play Baylor under certain weather conditions, and it was for wind on Saturday,” Howard said.
“It’s exciting to have that quality of tennis for your kids to see for free.”
Lion tennis will now gear up for the Corsicana Tournament on Friday. Top district foes such as Midway, Midlothian and the host team will be there, along with other tough squads like Texas High.
“We’re focused on playing those top district teams well,” Howard said.
“It will be a one-day tournament and so it will be a long day. Hopefully we’re ready for it. Other district teams probably don’t expect much from us after we finished fourth in the fall, but I think we’ll surprise them and get some players out to regionals.”

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Posted by on Feb 24 2009. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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