Cistercian Tennis

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Cistercian Tennis

Jose Baquero and Noah Vetter

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When soccer and basketball end after Winter SPC, one generally thinks that Cistercian sports are over. There are no more pep rallies or big games on Friday nights to entertain both middle school and high school students. However, Cistercian offers three sports in the Spring. Tennis offers many opportunities to become a better teammate, if not player, and players are always guaranteed to have a great and fun-filled season.

Even though each tennis season is different due to the seniors on the team, there are the same elements in each season. Firstly, there are the classic Coach Boyden one liners such as “take off” and “go to rack” and the same jokes that have been recycled long before any of us. But apart from these jokes and similar practices, this season has been the most different out of the others. Usually, there are many upperclassmen that help with the team chemistry during the beginning of the season. Yet this season was different, with only three seniors and three juniors, the underclassmen were given a bigger responsibility in the team and they had to “step up” in the words of Coach Boyden.

Incoming sophomore Ankit Lulla came in as our line two singles, and Ethan Baek (’22) is our line three singles. As for doubles, Christopher Hardin (’22) plays line two doubles. Apart from these three incoming players, returning sophomores Sam Laber and Ben Woods play in lines one and two doubles respectively. Out of the seven positions that competed in SPC, only one out of three singles and one out of two doubles are not occupied by underclassmen. Junior Nico Lopez played as our line one singles, and Sam Laber (’21) and Jose Baquero (’19) played as line one singles. Since only two upperclassmen are in the varsity, this has changed the dynamic of the team. It seems that the energy of freshmen and sophomores mixed with the direction of the upperclassmen  may have improved the team chemistry, and set up even better years in the future.

The team entered SPC as the number three North seed, our highest seed in previous years. The only matches early in the season that we had lost were against the top two teams: St. Marks and ESD. Our greatest victory was against Oakridge who we beat 5-0. We then beat Fort Worth Country Day 4-1. Our last victory was at Oklahoma against Casady where we won 3-2 even though we were missing some of our doubles players. Nearing the end of the season we played Trinity Valley and Greenhill, losing to both bitterly. We lost to Trinity Valley, 1-4, with Ankit, now line one singles, getting the only win. In the match against Greenhill, we tried to get hyped up since we had recently suffered a loss 1-4 to them. Though we ended up losing 2-3, we showed spirit and may have beaten them if we had played just a little better. Although our record dropped, our team dynamic was not dampened, and we went into the SPC competition hungry.

On the way to SPC, the trip was pretty quiet and chill, but once in Houston, the weather proved to be unfriendly. We started out our match against St. Stephen’s poorly. Though most of our players lost, our line 2 doubles team was still playing as it began to pour down on the courts. Christopher Hardin remarked, “Even though our team wouldn’t be able to win regardless of our match, my teammates still came out and supported us,” showing the true bond of Cistercian tennis. Unfortunately, having lost all accept for Nico, the team would have to go to the Consolation Bracket, where they played Greenhill again. This was an opportunity to have a win against a rival team we had lost to in the season, but we were unable to pull out a win. Nico and Ethan were the only ones who could get a win in the match. Though it was a disappointing end to a promising season, senior Jose Baquero got to play his last games as a hawk, and the team showed some of the heart they’ll need if they want to go any farther in future years.

INTERVIEW SECTION STARTS HERE

This year’s tennis team may have been one of the best sports teams at Cistercian because of the many new players that had been given a large role in the team. Since I was curious to find out how Cistercian Tennis had become so good, I went behind the scenes to question Nico Lopez about his thoughts on the team and his own personal growth at Cistercian.

One of the most heavily stressed points in our interview was the importance of building a team environment. Though our team has good players in both singles and doubles spots, we need to have a team, not several disparate individuals. Nico is a great tennis player and we have Ankit already earning his keep, but most of the time it is that third singles or second doubles spot that will decide a win. That is why it is important to work in practice as a unit and cheer each other. No team is perfect, but by lifting up teammates and giving energy to each other, one gets much closer to having a perfect team. Cistercian being a small school heightens the level of brotherhood needed to achieve this bond between teammates.

I have always heard that in tennis it’s important to have a short-term memory in regards to mistakes. Since tennis is more mental than physical, you have to win mentally to win the game. Though I have stressed teamwork, another contributing factor to the tennis team’s recent success is the great players we’ve had come in that apply themselves. Some of the guys on the team have been playing tennis since they could hold a racket. Others may have started in seventh grade. No matter their experience, our tennis players have been and continue to work hard to improve their game. Though Cistercian is not the key contributor to our athletes’ work ethic, it is known as a place that teaches us to work hard in mind and body regardless of pre-existing talent.

One of the greatest gifts of Cistercian is the making of leaders. Many Cistercian students acknowledge ourselves as being mentally gifted rather than physically talented. Growing up tall, lanky, and scrawny, Nico was not naturally gifted in the sport of tennis. He had to start out losing, but he fought through it as many great athletes have done. As a freshman, Nico played as the first singles spot, no easy task. Nico was not able to carry the team. Tennis is a team sport where we need three wins to get the W. Even if he won every single time we played, we still would not win. Since he was leading the team at the number one spot, he had to grow up and actually become a leader to the tennis team. One of the things he quickly realized was to know what you can and can’t do. Nico said that he learned to see the difference between helping people individually or as a team. By boosting the team’s energy, rather than working with a particular person, he was able to establish a good the team environment. 

Cistercian tennis is a lot like the other sports. We have some guys that are great and others that are not as talented. The universal thing that is found in every Cistercian team, regardless of wins and losses, is the brotherhood and companionship between teammates. One thought that Nico had hinted at during our interview was this: Cistercian isn’t the place where kids come to get really good at a sport. It is the place for us to become leaders in our community and brothers with one another. 

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