COLLEGE STATION – The old mantra is “to be the best you have to beat the best”.
Round Rock Westwood just did that.
To get to the second-ever appearance in the UIL Team Tennis State Tournament, the Warriors first had to go through 2017 Class 6A State Runner-Up Cypress Ranch. They did, dominating 10-1.
To win the first-ever team tennis state championship, Westwood had to topple perennial power Houston Memorial – the defending Class 6A UIL Team Tennis State Champions.
Westwood did that, defeating Memorial 10-7 in the Class 6A UIL Team Tennis State Championship match on Thursday at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
“We beat 12 Top 25 schools this year,” Westwood coach Travis Dalrymple said. “We beat No. 2 Plano West, No. 1 Memorial, No. 4 Amarillo, Westlake, Vandegrift. The kids just kept rising to the occasion. It was fun to be a part of.
“Region II this year is the toughest in the history of the state. We had six of the Top 10 schools in our region. It really helped us. We had to go through a murderers' row and we were ready to battle.”
Houston Memorial ends its season at 17-1, after making a 10th-straight appearance in the state tournament. Prior to this run, Memorial had been to the state tournament just once before in 1984.
This title run was special for Dalrymple.
Prior to this season, Westwood hadn’t been to the state tournament in the past 21 years – last coming in 1997 and falling in the state title match to Katy Taylor 10-7.
That season, Dalrymple was a sophomore at Westwood and was a part of the team that made it to the state finals.
Throughout the year, Dalrymple had been talking to his old coach and even had two of his former teammates in attendance on Thursday, cheering them on.
Now the full circle has been complete, with Dalrymple coming back as a coach and bringing the first-ever title back to his alma mater.
“It’s very special,” Dalrymple, a 2000 graduate of Westwood, said. “I love this school. I went there, I work there, my kids are going to come here. It’s a great community, it’s a great school and it’s a lot of fun to bring it back home.”
To upend the defending state champions, the road to that would start in doubles.
After the match was over, Dalrymple admitted their doubles play hadn’t been good all season. But when the lights came on, the doubles showed up.
Westwood came out and took a commanding 5-2 lead after doubles play, including getting the win in the No. 1 boys doubles slot, as Ishan Dhanani and Mohanad Elchouemi defeated Taylor Stafford and Graham Abaoag 2-0 (6-3, 6-4).
“We’ve been winning a lot doubles matches based on talent, not strategy,” Dalrymple said. “I knew once we got to the big dog teams, real doubles teams would take us down. We kept grinding away, getting closer and closer, and when the moment came, they rose to the occasion.”
In singles play, needing just five wins for the title, Westwood got the first four from Gaurav Singh, Mohanad Elchouemi, Daniel Antov and Jessica Lu, making it 9-7.
“That was insane, I’m still in shock a little bit,” Singh said. “Last two years, we’ve lost to the same team. We got killed by them the last two years in a row. This year, we finally did it. It wouldn’t have happened without all the people that joined the team this year. Everybody helped.”
Needing one more win, the attention turned to the final few matches, including the top girls' singles showdown.
Kiana Graham bested Drew Morris 2-0 (6-2, 7-6 (3)) to seal the state championship for Westwood, and when she did, the junior was swarmed by her teammates.
“I can tell people now the first time we ever won state, I was a part of that,” Graham said.