Varsity Tennis Lands Commanding 11-2 Victory Over Round Rock in Fall Season Opener

By Catharine Li, Reporter

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  • Pushed out wide, Alex Mepham '24 tracks the ball after a backhand return. Playing both doubles and singles, she would win this match 8-5.

    Photo By Catharine Li

  • Reaching maximum extension, Aashish Dhanani '22 jumps to execute a powerful topspin serve. Dhanani partnered with Gina Mepham '23 for the first time in mixed doubles. "I think that overall, there are things to improve on but as a team, I think that Gina and I did very well," Dhanani said.

    Photo By Catharine Li

  • Making a swift follow-through on a forehand return, Dana Kardonik '24 stays on her feet, ready to return the next ball. Kardonik partnered with Kinaa Graham '23 for the first time to land a 6-4, 6-4 win for the Warriors. "I am so excited to keep learning from and practicing with [Kinaa]," Kardonik said.

    Photo By Catharine Li

  • Eyeing the ball, Alek Mesarovic '24 split steps in preparation to frame a forehand volley return to his opponent. Playing singles in his first ever varsity match, Mesarovic battled his nerves to emerge triumphant with a score of 8-4. "I wasn't playing [in] my usual style because I was so tense," Mesarovic said. "My legs and arms were practically shaking. Once I got over my nervousness, I began to gradually play better and better further into the match."

    Photo By Catharine Li

  • With a backhand volley approach, Gina Mepham '23 looks to end the point by effectively controlling net play. Mepham was focused on committing to the shot and putting the ball away. "This was my first time playing mixed doubles and I thought me and my partner played great. The team that we played against was very solid," Mepham said.

    Photo By Catharine Li

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Spirited racket clanks and face-masked smiles marked a momentous 11-2 win by the varsity tennis team over the Round Rock Dragons on Friday, Sept. 11. As athletics programs across the country reckon with the realities of an anything-but-normal fall season, the looming dark clouds, unknowns, and pounding of rain across Central Texas in the past week crept away, bringing clear skies and a breath of fresh air for a group eager to spring back on the courts for a new year. 

Beginning with high-velocity boys’ doubles match-ups, rallies didn’t go on for long. Groundstroke consistencies were punctuated by sweeping net coverage where aggressive close-ins for poach after poach elevated a game fused by forward-thinking hustle and clear communication to propel the players on to gain control of the match. Line one senior pair Daniel Antov and Nicolas Pesoli triumphed over a sound face-off with a decisive 6-0, 6-0 victory, setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The duos of Sachchit Sivaram ‘21 and Aadhi Raja ‘23 and Zeyad Elchouemi ‘22 and Marko Mesarovic ‘23 clinched 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-0 wins to contribute to a solid 3-0 start for the Warriors. 

“It was my partner’s first high school match, so he was definitely a bit nervous,” Antov said. “I made sure to keep him calm and confident while working on my own game at the same time. Right now, I am going into the first couple [of] matches [by] getting in the groove, working on my weakness[es], and readying myself for the latter part of the season.” 

Freshly minted partnerships on the girls’ doubles side boosted team morale, widening the margin further in a stamina-driven exercise of mutual trust across the board. Athletes took cues from each other, anticipating their shots to stay a step ahead and executing placements for precise, elegant deliveries on the ball. Kinaa Graham ‘23 and Dana Kardonik ‘24 prevailed in their match 6-4, 6-4 to lead the Warriors forward. Successfully rounding out the first hour of matchplay, the pairs between freshmen Simryn Jacob and Alex Mepham in addition to Azra Pleuthner ‘21 and Rishika Vemulapalli ‘22 secured wins in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-4. 

“I attacked the net better than usual in doubles. Playing with [Kinaa] for the first time, I was glad that we could quickly click and communicate easily,” Kardonik said. 

Mixed doubles would level off an early lead foundation set by the team. Flexibility was key, and as pace of the game picked up, Aashish Dhanani ‘22 and Gina Mepham ‘23 adapted hiccup-free, transitioning into new formations to further compliment their individual styles of play. Though the duo fought hard to overcome their opponents, they ultimately lost 6-2, 6-7, coming up short in the tie-break 10-5. 

“In tough and high-stakes moments, I strongly believe in having a positive mindset and fighting until the last point. The tie break is just 15 minutes and in those 15 minutes, I’m going to give it everything I[‘ve] got,” Dhanani said. 

Under the last beating hours of the Texas sun, the Warriors concluded the evening with singles matchplay, a display both in endurance and physical and mental rigor as the players battled to keep the ball in play and elevate the performances seen earlier. Blowout efforts by freshmen Luke Sultzer and Alek Mesarovic embellished the team result with scores of 8-1 and 8-4. 

“I was a bit nervous at the beginning,” A. Mesarovic said. “The support I was getting from the team was very helpful because they know what pressure is like. The constant cheering helped me get over my nerves and win the match.” 

Spread out around the bleachers, words of encouragement from both parties filled the air while the Warriors initiated a familiar ‘Sko Wood,’ relishing a moment that for a couple of seconds, seemed to restore a sense of normalcy in the tight-knit community of high school tennis. 

“I never realized how much I missed it,” Pleuthner said. “I’m just really happy we even have a season this semester with the circumstances. It felt weird playing a match for Westwood after so long, but we got into the groove of things pretty fast.” 

Lifted by fellow teammates, the varsity squad turned the page, however uncertain, on a new, socially distant chapter of the fall season, a silver lining that the seniors plan to make the most of, one day at a time. 

“We are hoping to stay healthy this season and compete at the highest level for as long as possible,” Antov said. “It’s very important for me to be a leader and someone the underclassmen can come to for help right now. Even [in] these uncertain times, I am always trying my best to better the team.” 

Currently the number one spot in the Texas Tennis Coaches Association (TTCA) pre-season rankings, the team undoubtedly has high expectations for another strong playoff run following a 17-2 season last fall. 

“The seniors have really stepped up,” head coach Travis Dalrymple said. “[At] every practice [they are] teaching the freshmen [and] newcomers our ways, and teaching them our culture. We had a lot of mistakes and a lot of errors [today] but it’s all stuff we can fix, and we’re making progress. I’m excited for this season, the future looks very bright.” 

The Warriors will take on Georgetown on Friday, Sept. 18.