This week the tennis courts at McKinney North were “buzzing” with activity as head coach Jon Stein and assistant Josh Greenwood put the Bulldogs through their final practices as they await this week’s Regional Team Tennis meet.
These practices are very organized and scripted to maximize time and resources. The road to the state championship has begun and North is considered one of the favorites to march onward.
The good news is that the Bulldogs enter this weekend’s UIL High School Team Tennis Regional playoffs ranked No. 2 in the 4A Texas Tennis Coaches Association poll. The not-so-good news is that fellow District 10-4A member Highland Park is ranked No. 1 in the same poll and will be contending with the Bulldogs for the Region II title and a trip to the state tournament.
These two powerhouse programs faced each other in last week’s District meet, where Highland Park edged out
North for the District Team title. The top two teams as well as top two individual winners advanced to the
Regional tournament. However, at the Regional tournament the stakes are higher as only the first-place winners advance to the state tournament.
This sets up another classic battle between these 10-4A foes. North senior and doubles player, Shane Conway, knows having Highland Park to contend with at the district and regional level is difficult, however he said, “Stein has prepared us well for this time, we have played a tough schedule this season. We feel confident.”
Senior singles and doubles player Anna Schraer added, “We are very ready. Whave trained hard. Tennis is a game of focus, it has been a long successful season, and we are ready.”
Stein has been with the North Tennis program for 11 years, and he is most responsible for building the North Tennis program into the “machine” it is today. The 12 banners that hang outside the tennis courts at North detailing the many district, regional and state qualifiers North had are a testament to how successful
the program has been under his leadership.
When asked to share what has led to such success at North, Stein said, “We have been very fortunate to have a lot of really good players come through North over the years and this year is no exception.
“I think it (our success on the courts) is about organizing that talent and convincing those athletes how to play for their teammates and not just themselves.”
Senior Kira Smith echoes her coach’s belief.
“We are all very close both on and off the court,” Smith said. “We have played tennis most of our lives and we have grown close. (Coach) Stein knows that we will be ready.”
Stein is not surprised that this season has been as successful as it has been, despite a heaping dose of upperclassmen.
“We are a young team this year but at the same time knew we had potential to be pretty good,” Stein said. “… We went after some big wins early in the year and it started to snowball.”
It is no accident that the Bulldogs find themselves on the cusp of the state championship. This group has pushed each other every day to be better. Stein says the biggest positive of the team is that they hold each other
accountable for their play and they are committed to the team.
And the Dawgs are Prepared for what lies ahead this weekend.
The Regional meet takes place this Friday and Saturday at Grapevine High School. The State meet will take place the weekend of November 4-5 at the Mitchell Tennis Center on the Texas A&M campus.
-Story by Harvy Oaxaca, TownSquareBuzz.com contributor
-Pictures by Paula Mattei, with top photo of Shane Conway and above right of Anna Schraer.