HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS

Seven Vandegrift athletes compete at state tennis tournament

The Vipers also qualified for the team tournament in the fall, beating Lake Travis and Westlake to reach the semifinals

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Seven Vandegrift tennis players competed at the individual tennis state championship Thursday and Friday in College Station.

Singles competitors Gabby Cusano, Jai Naik and Deven Bapat, the boys’ doubles team of Nic Cusano and Blaine Kanak and the girls’ doubles team of Anisha Apte and Synclair Larson all stumbled in the opening, quarterfinal round on Thursday.

“I thought everybody could advance through the first round, but everybody is good at state and there are no walkover matches,” Vandegrift head coach Daniel White said.

The Apte/Larson team was the only one of the group that went to the full three sets as they fell to eventual state champions Emma Gener and Jocelyn Thai from Plano West 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

Vandegrift advanced to the team tennis state tournament for the second time in school history in the fall.

The seven total Vipers — three individuals and two doubles teams — that reached the state tournament were the most from one school in any classification at the individual state tournament.

“That’s kind of the highlight,” White said. “Obviously going to state in the fall season too, but to advance that many with how good Westlake and Lake Travis are, we very fortunate. It just kept falling our favor.”

White said at the district tournament, the Vipers got every spot he was expecting them to get. At the regional tournament, they dropped one player from the district.

Three seniors are graduating from Vandegrift this season, including Larson, Kailey Chase and Arvind Venkatesan.

“All three of them have been leaders on the team and have really carried the team not just in ability but more so in that intangible capacity where they can rally the team,” White said. “That’s going to be really difficult to lose.

Vandegrift moves to a new district next season that includes a very strong team in Westwood, which had one individual and one doubles team at the state tournament, and leave a district with perennial powers Lake Travis and Westlake.

The Vipers beat the Warriors during the team competition this year but fell to them 9-10 last season.

“We don’t want to underestimate Westwood,” White said. “They’re a high-energy team so nerves can play a part in those matches. Our chances of going to regionals is a lot better, but our region is extremely difficult next year.”

Four teams advanced to state in the fall season and three of them are in the Vipers’ region next year. Five of this year’s top 10 teams — Vandegrift, Westwood, The Woodlands, Cy Ranch and Plano Ranch — are in the region and only one team can advance.

“That regional final is going to be brutal,” White said. “We’re excited and I think we’ll have a really strong team. We can make it to state again and it will be more difficult with the number of teams, but I wouldn’t count us out.”

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