GHS doubles team competes at State Tournament
For the first time in at least 50 years, Graham High School tennis sent individuals to the UIL State Tournament. The doubles team of Alex Smith and Dallas Elmore competed in College Station on Monday for the Steers in the 4A tennis doubles championship. Smith and Elmore did not place in the tournament but helped push the Graham tennis program forward.
The tournament in College Station was marred by a week of rain and several rain delays took place throughout the tournament. Smith and Elmore’s first doubles match was supposed to take place at 10:30, but it ended up getting pushed back to 2:30 in a four- hour rain delay.
Smith and Elmore competed against Kolton Adams and Patrick Petzold from Willis Point. Adams and Petzold won with scores of 6-1 and 6-4.
“We haven’t had to deal with any real rain delays this past two seasons,” Graham tennis coach Matt Birdwell said. “We didn’t play our best in the first set, but we fought back hard in the second set and kept it close. We had a couple of chances to go up two games in the second set, but our shots just seemed to be a little bit long, and Wills Point made some shots that were in the right place at the right time. I am very proud of my guys; they really had a great season.”
Adams and Petzold lost in the next round to Jason and Michael Loyd of Groesbeck. The team from Groesbeck then lost in the finals to Parker Phillips and Sitman Wainwright 6-4 and 6-2. Philips and Wainwright of Fredericksburg were crowned the 2016 4A doubles champions.
Smith and Elmore were thrilled to have an opportunity to compete at state. They accomplished a lot this season. They were the first team to qualify for state and possibly the first to qualify individually for the state tournament. The history of Graham tennis is still be fact checked by Birdwell.
Graham went to the state team tennis tournament four years ago.
Before the state tournament, Smith talked about the effort and perseverance it took to make it to state.
“Going to be honest, nobody expected us to get out of regionals,” Smith said. “Last year, me and Dallas played together I was a junior, him a sophomore, and we lost first round at district, which was disappointing. We played Wylie. They are a good solid team. This year we focused and grinded. In district, we beat Wylie’s No. 2 team. We played another team from Stephenville and beat them, and we played Wylie in the finals and lost but that’s OK, it’s second place. Next, when we went to regionals, just before that we grinded. We got lessons. We worked so hard to improve on the things we weren’t good at. Even though we played well in the beginning and lost to the No. 1 seed, they are picked to win state. They are really good. They beat us. It’s OK. We had to go up against two teams that were better than us. Two teams that we had previously lost to. We had never beaten Wylie, and we had never beaten Burkburnett. But we beat both that day because of how much hard work and effort me and Dallas had both put in. Dallas has improved a lot, and I am very proud of him.”
Smith was thrilled to have the chance to compete at the state tournament and talked about how stiff the competition would be at state.
“There is a chance that only one person (from Graham) has gone and that was 50 years ago,” Smith said. “We have no idea what to expect. Considering that we have the hardest region, and we got second place to the people they think are going to get first, I think we have a chance to place...We have nothing to lose. Nobody is going to judge us if we lose, and everyone is going to be ecstatic if we win.”
Smith and Elmore can hold their head high for all that they accomplished with the Graham Steers tennis program.
Smith has completed his time at GHS and will go on to play tennis in college at McMurry University in Abilene.
Next year, there will be unfinished business for Elmore. He returns for his senior year and has an opportunity to build upon this year’s state run.