WIMBERLEY — For the second time in three years, the Wimberley High School Tennis team has claimed the UIL 4A Team Tennis State Championship.
At the state tournament, Wimberley defeated defending state champion Canyon Randall High School in the semifinals on Wednesday, Oct. 24, and Kaufman High School in the final on Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Waco Regional Tennis Center.
Against Randall, the Texans fell behind 2-5 after the seven doubles matches. Only the duos of Ella Malone/Kate Carson and Drew Vinson/Tyler Youens were victorious. Four of the doubles matches went to a third set tiebreak, but the Texans lost each one.
The deficit didn’t deter Wimberley as the team won eight of the 11 completed singles matches to advance to the final.
Against Kaufman, the script from the semifinals was flipped, as Wimberley raced out to a 5-2 lead after doubles. Kaufman gave a spirited effort in winning five of the first eight completed singles matches, but wins by senior Gwen Pierce and junior Maggie Moore clinched the title by a 10-7 margin.
The Texans punched their ticket to state by defeating district rival Boerne High School in the regional tournament. It was the fourth year in a row that the Texans and the Greyhounds met up in the regional final, with Boerne winning in 2020 and 2022, and the Texans victorious in 2021 and 2023. The Texans dropped a heartbreaking home district matchup against Boerne on October 4 by a final margin of 10-9.
According to WHS head coach Kenneth Gustafson, the Texans were confident heading into the match, but Boerne’s team brought a level of intensity his players weren’t ready for.
“We were rattled and it was a heartbreaking way to lose,” Gustafson said. “That match forced us to improve in some ways our kids didn’t think they needed to.”
The team spent each practice and the three rounds of playoffs leading to the regional tournament, working on building intensity, with the expectation of facing Boerne again.
After 10-0 wins against Floresville and Needville in the first two rounds of the 4A playoffs, district opponent Fredericksburg awaited the Texans in the regional quarterfinals. The Texans were 10-1 winners over the Billies in district play, but were met with some adversity in the playoff matchup, with a slim 4-3 lead after the seven doubles matches. “The Fredericksburg match was a lightbulb moment for our team,” Gustafson said. “It was really good to have that experience where we had to raise our intensity level, and we did, because we swept all 12 singles matches, to win 16-3.”
After a 10-5 victory over Corpus Christi Tuloso-Midway in the semifinals of the Region IV tournament, the Texans had their rematch with Boerne.
“The loss in district brought this team so much closer together; their perseverance and ability to react to adversity is what makes them special,” Gustafson said.
Against Boerne at regionals, the Texans won six of the seven doubles matches, giving the team a massive lead going into singles play. Four more singles wins clinched the match and the trip to the state tournament.
Whereas the 2021 state champion Wimberley team featured nine senior boys, this year’s team relied on the experience of its seasoned girls players. Seniors Ella Malone and Pierce are captains, members of the 2021 state championship team and spring tennis state qualifiers.
“Ella is a great leader and she’s done so much in tennis. We’re fortunate to have her out there for us Gwen is such a driving force on this team, she pushes (her teammates) so hard in practice,” Gustafson said.
Rounding out the team captains is senior Joe Sheffield.
“Joe is our volume,” the head coach said. “He brings the intensity. If you’re at one of our matches and you hear someone, it’s most likely Joe.”
The rest of the players who competed for WHS this year were: Logan Carpenter, Kate Carson, Kennedy Carson, Kyndan Gilley, Marcus Gonzales, Branton Kirchner, Ty Marko, Lea Martin, Maia Martin, Finn Mignerey, Maggie Moore, Emma Pierce, Drew Vinson and Tyler Youens.