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Rolling Along: West, East win heading into Monday's showdown
Prior to Tuesday's tennis match against Plano West, Plano Senior head coach Cliff Lazarine identified boys No. 1 singles, boys No. 2 singles and boys No. 1 doubles as matches the Wildcats could win.
He was right as Plano won all three of those matches.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those were the only three contests they won with the Wolves winning the other 16, 15 in straight sets, for a 16-3 team victory.
"You play so many matches at the beginning of the year, especially with our tournament, and then the season sort of slows down for a few weeks," said Morgen Walker, West head coach. "We just finished that portion of the schedule and this is the week where things start to pick back up, so the kids were ready to get going and they got done what they needed to today; got on and off the court quickly."
West registered straight-set doubles victories from Race Collins and Jason Jung (boys No. 2), Anshul Pandey and Titus Strom (boys No. 3), Emily Houston and Alahna Reto (girls No. 1), Cassi Pollock and Seema Prakash (girls No. 2), Brittany Bennett and Tori Simmons (girls No. 3), Adam Mlynarczyk and Maddy Thompson (mixed).
"For the most part I felt like we took care of business," Mlynarczyk said. "We didn't lose focus or allow Plano to get back into the match."
Plano's lone doubles win came at boys No. 1 where Paul Hainey and A.J. Liu defeated Calvin Lee and Sean Slater (5-7, 6-1, 10-8).
"We started that match slow," Walker said. "We were missing too many first serves and not putting enough balls in play, and its tough to win when you don't start points well."
Indeed West had a tough start as the Wolves trailed 5-2 in the first set before storming back to take the opener, 7-5, with five straight games.
"We started strong and then lost some focus, which is obviously a credit to West too because they were playing well," Lazarine said. "But our guys were able to refocus in the second set and force a tiebreaker."
The tiebreaker looked much the same as the first set.
Hainey and Liu led 8-2 in the breaker before Lee and Slater reeled of six straight points to tie the score, 8-8. Plano would own the next two points to take the third set and the match.
"We just couldn't seem to find a consistent rhythm," Lee said. "We got it back for a bit in the first set and then couldn't find it again."
Even with that loss, West held a commanding lead at the turn.
"We were up 6-1 after doubles," Walker said, "so obviously that's a good thing."
The same combination that got Plano a point in doubles represented the Wildcats' two singles points with Hainey (boys No. 1) picking up a straight-set win and Liu (boys No. 2) defeating Strom (6-0, 4-6, 12-10) in one of just two singles matches to go the distance along with West's Kevin Huang (boys No. 4) defeating Plano's Pablo Llambias (4-6, 6-4, 10-6).
The rest of the matches were won by West in two sets.
That batch included Jung (boys No. 3), Mark Hainey (boys No. 5), Daniel Oxenreiter (boys No. 6), Reto (No. 1 girls), Prakash (No. 2 girls), Pollock (No. 3 girls), Bennett (No. 4 girls), Simmons (No. 5 girls) and Rubina Sawal (No. 6 girls). The scores were particularly dominant on the girls side with the Lady Wolves dropping only 11 total games.
"The kids know this is a process, so they aren't giving up or getting frustrated," Lazarine said. "We have a young team, but they are also eager, so they are hustling and working hard, and that's the biggest thing you want to see as a coach."
The loss dropped Plano to 1-3 in district.
"Every match, especially against the elite teams, gives you something to build on," Lazarine said. "And our kids are smart, so I think they see the big picture and know we are heading in the right direction."
As it has been since 2000, West is undefeated in district, now at 4-0.
Panthers keep pace
West isn't the only team to hold a 4-0 record in 10-5A though as they share that mark, and first place, with Plano East. The Wolves and Panthers will determine the district champion at 4:15 p.m. Monday from Gleneagles Country Club.
East remained perfect with Tuesday's 12-7 win over McKinney Boyd.
The Panthers held a 5-2 lead at the turn and picked up singles wins from Vishal Menon (boys No. 2), Varun Srinivasan (boys No. 3), Eric Hong (boys No. 4), Brendan Hopper (boys No. 5), Miles Lee (boys No. 6), Agata Jakubowska (girls No. 2) and Alison Vo (girls No. 5) to wrap up the win.
The Broncos were, however, without their girls No. 2 player.
Depending on the outcome of Monday's East-West match, the Panthers and Broncos could meet again Oct. 16 in the District 10-5A Tournament Semifinals.
"I'm sure [Boyd will] still feel comfortable playing us in the playoffs, but I like our chances too," said Don Allen, East head coach. "It should be a war next time."