Kiana Graham ‘20 Named Girls Tennis Athlete of the Decade by the Austin American-Statesman

Catharine Li, Horizon Editor-in-Chief

As the year came to a close, the Austin American-Statesman recognized the top high school athletes in Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) sports, celebrating their efforts and achievements in a decade to remember. Among the ten students recognized, Kiana Graham ‘20 was named girls tennis athlete of the decade, and former student Miguel Alda ‘13 was honored for his standout performances on the court. 

Alda, who was ranked first in the state of Texas in both the 16 and 18 age groups by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), claimed the 5A Boys’ Singles Championship in 2013. Additionally, he played a critical role in helping the team secure district titles every season of the decade. 

“Miguel was an unbelievable player with an incredible work ethic. Silky smooth strokes and [it seemed like he] never lost a match. [He was] a big part of the foundation when we built the WW tennis program,” head coach Travis Dalrymple said. 

On her path to this title, Graham led an undefeated season as a freshman, adamantly battling her way through districts and entering regionals seeded as the top singles player to eventually claim the State singles title in 2017. In a groundbreaking year for the Warriors, her clinch win would lead the team to capture the 6A State Team Tennis title in 2018, the first in program history. 

Kiana is as clutch as it comes and I can’t fully explain how much the team relies on her to come up big in matches. When we knocked off Plano West and stormed the court to make it to State, it was Kiana with the clincher. When we won our Team State Championship and stormed the court, once again it was Kiana with the clincher,” Coach Dalrymple said. 

Now a state contender for mixed doubles, she plans to continue as an athlete at the collegiate level, recently committing to Southern Methodist University (SMU)’s Women’s tennis program. 

“What drew me to SMU [was] the atmosphere. As soon I visited I loved it,” Graham said. “The facilities are beautiful, the people are friendly, and it’s just far enough from home for me to be out of my parents’ reach. SMU also has so many opportunities for me to be where I want to be in the future, and I’m so excited to start the next chapter of my life.” 

As her time at Westwood comes to a close, the past four years are just a slice of the legacy Graham has left on the court. A testament to the amount of hard work, dedication, and true passion for the sport, it’s helped pave the way to not only her success, but to the success of the program. 

“I can’t fully explain how big of an honor it has been to coach her for four years. She is not only an incredible tennis player, but she’s such a genuine person that really brings out the best in everyone around her,” Coach Dalrymple said. “I remember her coming to tryouts as an eighth grader and thinking ‘yeah, she’s pretty good’ Was I ever wrong. She’s unbelievable. [She] raises the game of everyone around her.” 

For Graham, playing tennis transcends what’s come to her individually, as the support and encouragement of an especially tight-knit group of players she’s come to know as family still shines on. 

“Without the support of the players that are now a part of my life, I don’t think I would have achieved everything I have. It’s been a long journey, and the Westwood tennis team has always supported everything I do,” Graham said. “Working with [Coach Dalrymple] has taught me to reach for the sky and to never stop working, and I will always cherish what he has done for me and our tennis program.”