Special to the Star-Telegram
The Grapevine tennis program had a phenomenal showing at the Class 5A state meet this year, as two teams brought home gold medals to the defending team tennis state champion.
The boys doubles team of Alex Joseph and Miha Valencic won a state championship as well as the mixed doubles team of Octavia Malin and Keenan Rico, and coach Ryan Gillen said that he is quite pleased with the outcome.
“I thought we performed very well, especially considering the circumstances,” Gillen said. “Everybody is in the same boat with the weather and the rain, but I feel like our kids really weathered the storm and really focused throughout the tournament so that once we were able to take the court, they were ready to go.
“I think that showing that kind of maturity kind of put us over the edge and really helped us with some of our success.”
Gillen said that the inclement weather caused massive delays for start times at the state tournament.
“The first day of the tournament, we were supposed to take the court at 10 a.m., and matches didn't start until about 7 p.m.,” Gillen said. “I think that our mixed doubles team was the last one to go on, and we went on at 1:30 in the morning. We ended up coming off the court at 3 p.m. So it was something that I have never experienced as a coach or a player. These kids will have something to remember from the state tournament for the rest of their lives.”
Gillen said he did have a special message for his players during the delays.
“I just told them to stay off of their feet and relax,” Gillen said. “I told them their time was coming and that it would not rain forever, and we had to be ready whenever it stops. These kids have played enough USTA and UIL tennis to know what to expect. There are delays – maybe not to the extent that we experienced at the state tournament, but they had a pretty good idea of what to expect.”
Gillen appears to have picked up right where legendary Grapevine tennis coach Angel Martinez left off in the team tennis season, and Gillen said that things really could not be going much better right now.
“I'm very satisfied,” Gillen said. “Coming in mid-school year is a hard thing. Not just for me, but for the kids. They have somebody new, and somebody who probably runs things a little differently from their previous coach. Just gaining trust was the biggest thing, and that was my number-one goal.
“I figured that once I had them locked into what I was saying, things would be fine. It has been fun, and it has been an honor to take the program over after a great coach like Angel. I was placed in a good situation, and hopefully I’ll continue on with that.”
Gillen said that Malin and Rico, both seniors, will be missed and that their contributions to the Grapevine tennis program have been immeasurable.
“They have provided great leadership,” Gillen said. “They've been through this, and they've had success in the past. For them to show the younger kids the ropes is just going to help us in the future. It's been a blast coaching those two seniors. They really played well at the state tournament, and they have handled themselves well throughout the season. They've done a great job in their career here at Grapevine, and I wish them nothing but the best.”
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