High school tennis: Veterans Memorial's Deng and Su shining in debut doubles season
Sophie Deng and Jenny Su are among the best girls high school tennis players in Corpus Christi.
But something that happened in the fall put two stellar girls singles players on a different path this spring.
They won a point off region powerhouse Alamo Heights in girls doubles, which turned on a lightbulb for Veterans Memorial tennis coach Jeff Davidson.
"We hadn't even thought about playing doubles until we beat Alamo Heights," Davidson said. "That was the first time it was even talked about. We had full intentions of them playing singles in the spring until that point.
"That made us look at it."
Despite being raw and still a work in progress in doubles play, the tandem won its first 38 matches of the school year, before falling 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to Lexi Harrel and Shayna Meek of Kerrville Tivy in the Region IV-5A girls doubles final.
Deng, who was the MVP of the district in tennis in 2019 as a freshman, advanced to the semifinals in the regional tournament in the girls singles draw that year and said the duo knew qualifying for state in doubles was a possibility.
"We knew there was a chance (we could make it to state)," Deng said. "We wanted to try something new. We don't really play doubles and it was fun. It took a while to click."
Deng and Su agreed that the area that they still need to improve in is their play at the net, which Davidson said is the No. 1 thing singles players have to adjust to when playing doubles.
"They are getting better at the net," Davidson said. "We are much better than where we were before.
"They want to play back and just rip balls, like they do in singles. We've had to teach them about doubles — court positioning, poaching balls, that kind of stuff."
Deng and Su enter the UIL State Tennis Tournament with a 38-1 mark on the year, coming a long way from a team that "didn't even know that we were going to play doubles," according to Su.
This year's UIL State Tennis Championships will be held in three separate venues in San Antonio as College Station was not able to host the meet due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Blossom Tennis Center, Northside Tennis Center and Annemarie Tennis Center have split the draws.
As regional runners up, the Eagles duo will face a regional champion in the quarterfinals, and Veterans Memorial drew Amarillo High's Gracie Polster and Morgan Rose, who won Region I-5A.
Deng and Su said they aren't really carrying any expectations into state and have the mindset that they just want to go out and do the best they can.
Corpus Christi Area State Qualifiers
Boys Singles — David Avalos, Gregory-Portland
Girls Doubles — Sophie Deng-Jenny Su, Veterans Memorial
Girls Singles — Jenna Carr, Calallen
Boys Singles — Damian Rosas, Tuloso-Midway
Girls Doubles — Libby Peterson-Kylie Budd, London
Boys Singles — Ames Buchanan, London
UIL STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, MAY 20
Class 1A and 2A, Blossom Tennis Center, San Antonio
Class 3A and 4A, Annemarie Tennis Center, San Antonio
Class 5A and 6A, Northside Tennis Center, San Antonio
FRIDAY, MAY 21
Blossom Tennis Center, San Antonio
Class 1A, 2A, and 3A Finals
Northside Tennis Center, San Antonio
Class 4A, 5A and 6A Finals
Quinton Martinez covers all things sports in South Texas. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe