School starts this week and what can be considered the Pre-Season part of the 2017 Team Tennis schedule is complete. The results so far have not matched the wins and losses Grapevine Tennis has come to expect in recent years.
In all fairness, half their opponents were 6A schools, which will always have a depth advantage. But it’s clear this will be a challenging year for Mustang Tennis. The strength of a team that reached the State Tournament three consecutive years, winning two of them, has moved on. Of the top 16 players on last year’s team only half a dozen remain.
This year’s team is filled with underclassmen. The Boys Team has only 4 seniors and 4 juniors. Girls are even thinner with NO seniors and 3 juniors. That represents a huge loss of talent and experience.
Nevertheless, there is a bright side. Those underclassmen are all learning on the job. They are gaining great experience that will pay off down the road. They are improving every game and every match. They are coming along and will one day soon turn the corner from close losses to close wins.
Coach Clint Laukhuf has stressed a couple of points when he talks with the team. He says "The importance of being a team, through supporting each other and building each other up, by fighting hard regardless of where we are in a match. Fight is a habit and toughness is a skill. This schedule is accomplishing everything I want it to, reinforcing that habit of fight and building toughness. We were paid an incredible compliment by one of the coaches we played last week, 'Your team is scrappy. They fought the whole time.' His team clinched the win 2 hours before the last match came off of the court so that comment means a lot. Our schedule isn't getting easier, "GOOD!" (if you don't know what that means then ask) We are getting stronger."
The really bright side is that these underclassmen will be here a really long time. The work Coach Laukhuf is doing with the Junior Varsity and the Middle School programs will also pay off in the long term. Struggling and losing are never much fun. But there is value in every match played. Today’s struggles are building the core of a team that will challenge for more State Championships for years to come.