'It's absolutely incredible': Westwood wins 1st team tennis title
By Chris Bils / American-Statesman Correspondent
COLLEGE STATION — Westwood tennis coach Travis Dalrymple has built his life around competition. So as the Warriors warmed up for the Class 6A team championship against Houston Memorial on Thursday, the feeling that came over him was unprecedented.
"I'm the most competitive person you've ever met. I was yelling at (the players) when we were playing cards in the hotel yesterday," Dalrymple said. "But I didn't care if we won this match, because they played so well this season that, win or lose, they were winners in my book."
The competitor returned soon after the match began at Texas A&M.
When Kiana Graham scored the winning point in her No. 1 girls singles match, sealing a 10-7 decision for Westwood, Dalrymple sprinted onto the court with his team and led the victory cheers.
"It's absolutely incredible," he said. "These kids just played out of their minds. I knew we had a chance to do it, and the way they took the court was just unreal."
Westwood (19-0), ranked No. 3 by the Texas Tennis Coaches Association, entered the final as an underdog against defending champion and top-ranked Memorial (17-1). By the end of the doubles session, the Warriors had flipped the script, taking a 5-2 lead.
"It's been four years of Coach screaming at us to get on the net and do all these aggressive moves" in doubles, senior Michelle Duan said. "We all put it together today."
Duan and her No. 2 doubles team partner, Anjali Devireddy, beat the Mustangs' Nina Solovyeva and Natalie Hur 6-3, 6-3, helping spur a high-energy session. Both teams were on tired legs after playing semifinals that started at 8 a.m.
The Warriors didn't let up in singles. In the No. 1 boys spot, Gaurov Singh felt a responsibility to get on the board after losing his No. 2 doubles match. Battling a bruised hip from the morning, he powered through for a speedy 6-2, 6-1 win over Taylor Stafford that gave Westwood a 6-2 lead.
"I think the adrenaline just got to us," Singh said.
The Mustangs mounted a comeback, closing within 7-6, but with three girls singles matches left on court, the impending Westwood victory became apparent. Players done with their matches shuttled between Graham's and the No. 4 match featuring Sofie Kardonik, as both battled toward match point.
The ball had barely left the court when Graham found herself surrounded by teammates.
"It was a rush," she said. "I wanted to be really vocal for the last point, but I was just so exhausted. They had the energy for me."
For Dalrymple, it was the culmination of 10 years coaching his alma mater. As a sophomore in 1997, he was on a Warriors team that lost in the state final to Katy Taylor. Several of his former teammates were there Thursday to watch the program claim its first team title.
Dalrymple returned to lead the program in 2009, and since then he has taken it to new heights with a pair of individual state champions. This year's undefeated run included 10 wins over ranked opponents, and the Warriors beat No. 2 Plano West, No. 7 Allen and No. 11 Cypress Ranch to reach the final.
"Everything this team does, we do it for Coach," Singh said. "He does so much for us. All the fundraising, every day that we're out on the courts, he gives it 100 percent for us. We all did it for him."