Tennis Team is an Ace on the Court


Vincent Vizcaino

STATE: The varsity teams made it to state for the first time in AISD team tennis history. They competed against teams that have dominated the competition for decades and held their own as first time state qualifiers.

Annabel Andre and Sanwi Sarode

This past fall season, the LASA tennis team became the first Austin Independent School District (AISD) tennis team to ever make it to state competitions in the team season. During the playoffs, they competed against A&M Consolidated, Georgetown, Foster Wallace, and Friendswood and were able to advance to the state championships after winning against Friendswood with a final score of 10-9 in the Region III final. In October, the team went to College Station to compete in the state semifinals against Amarillo, who ended up being the state champions.

Head tennis coach Vincent Vizcaino went to state with the tennis team for the first time in his 27-year-long coaching career. According to him, the team’s success in the fall season continued into the spring season, with 12 team members qualifying for the regional tournament, three of whom won first place at regionals and advanced to the state competition to win third place. 

“This is the first Austin Independent School District school to make it that far in history,” Vizcaino said. “Ever since they started team tennis, I don’t know anyone from AISD that has made it that far, so I would say we made history for the Austin Independent School District. And then for individuals, we had 12 qualifiers for regionals and three qualifiers for state.”

To prepare for state, the team captains and Vizcaino had many meetings about how to structure the tennis roster to maximize the amount of wins the team would have in each round of the playoffs. Boys’ tennis team captain and senior Ted Gershon made spreadsheets and calculated the probability of each match using the universal tennis rating (UTR) system, which gives a player a numerical rating based on their total wins and losses.  

“A lot of our preparation went into how we structured our lineup in our roster heading into state,” Gershon said. “I don’t know that we had that much preparation beyond focusing on our roster and moving around a couple of lines to give us a better chance at winning.”

Compared to LASA’s previous seasons, Vizcaino said the team was able to overcome the obstacles of injuries and technicalities that prevented some players from playing during essential matches earlier in the year. Particularly, Gershon and freshman Claire Zhou were unable to play in the area tournament due to not playing in the previous round of the playoffs. 

“We’re a little bit more determined to go farther than we’ve ever gone before, so we played up to our expectations,” Vizcaino said. “Injuries did not help us last year, so I think we got stronger as a team. Because Friendswood and Georgetown were pretty formidable, … I think we came together as a team. The past experience of losing helped us out. We knew what to expect, [and] we knew what we wanted to do.” 

Being able to advance to high level competitions during the playoff season in both the fall and spring seasons, according to Gershon, allowed the team to bond and created special moments and inside jokes that brought the team closer together. For example, senior Rishi Rajesh promised to shave his head if the team advanced to state–a promise that was fulfilled in a Walmart parking lot by sophomore Rakesh Ravi.

SHOWING SUPPORT: After completing their matches in the spring, the boys team supports the remaining LASA players on court. According to sophomore Sophia Porter, the team has become much closer over the past year. Photo courtesy of Wendy Geng.

“I feel like the most exciting part was just being able to have a team bonding experience where we were all at the same hotel and for that, like three days stretch we all did pretty much the same things,” Gershon said. “We bonded a lot, and we had a lot better chemistry as a team compared to the last two years where we didn’t really have that opportunity. Shaving all of Rishi’s hair off was at the top of that list. I think that was a pretty exciting experience. We didn’t know that Rakesh was that good of a barber. There was not so much care and emphasis on the result [at state], just more enjoying the experience and enjoying playing at such a prestigious tournament.”

With the end of the season nearing, many members, including sophomore Sophia Porter, contemplate the impact of the current seniors and how the absence next year will affect the team. According to Porter, this year there are more seniors leaving the varsity team than in previous years with captains Ted Gershon and Karly Shi as well as other team members Rishi Rajesh, Neel Kumar, and August Bohmer graduating.

“I love Karly very much,” Porter said. “She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She is genuine towards all of us and has our best interests at heart. Ted as well. He’s a great tennis player. He’s very much suited to be a captain. I feel like losing them, as well as Rishi, is going to be a little devastating because they’re all very good players and all very important parts of our team, but hopefully with the new freshman it should be okay, but we definitely will miss them.”

Even though the team is losing many seniors, Vizcaino believes that next year’s team  will come back just as strong as new players join the team next year. According to him, LASA should have a good chance of qualifying for state again next year. 

“I think we’ll be pretty strong again next year,” Vizcaino said. “We are losing two of our boys, Ted and Rishi, but I do understand that we have a couple of freshmen that have applied for LASA that have high UTRs. Our boys team will be pretty strong, probably not as strong as this year. But our girls team should be as strong if not stronger. LASA will probably be returning the best girls team that we’ve ever had, so we’ll be a very formidable team against anybody.” 

MAKING HISTORY: The girls tennis team, according to head coach Vincent Vizcaino, has been the best the LASA program has seen. Five girls placed at district and competed at region. Photo courtesy of Vincent Vizcaino.

According to Porter, throughout the year, with overnight trips for playoff competitions, afternoon practices, and weekly tournaments, the team has grown incredibly close. Porter hopes the team will continue to grow together as they have over the last year. 

“I hope that we just continue this sense of family because I feel like every time I see one of [my teammates] in the hallway, I say hi,” Porter said. “I hope that we’re able to keep up this friendship and relationship that we have between our teammates.”