Tennis Team Rolls Over Competition

Coach+Darby+Norman+fist+bumps+sophomore+Gabby+Dishong.

Amy Neese

Coach Darby Norman fist bumps sophomore Gabby Dishong.

The no. 1 state ranked Randall tennis team has been rolling over teams all season long.

With the latest victory over West Plains Tuesday, 19-0, the Raiders increased their record 21-0. The Raiders will take to the court again Saturday with a 9 a.m. away match against Pampa then at home on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. against Hereford.

Hereford is one of three teams Coach Darby Norman said would be the Randall team’s biggest district competition this year, with the other two being Canyon and West Plains. However, the Raiders have already faced all of these teams at least once this season where they pulled out a win against Hereford and Canyon 18-1 and West Plains 16-3 and 19-0.

All teams will play twice before district play concludes on Oct. 4 and playoffs begin. Norman said the Raiders biggest competitors will in come in the form of Vernon and Wichita Falls in regional competition, where the Raiders are expected to face one of the two teams in the regional quarter-finals and the other in the regional finals to determine who will go to state.

It’s pretty impressive so far how all of our kids have bonded together and are getting it done.”

— Coach Darby Norman

Vernon is currently ranked no. 3, and similar to the Raiders, Wichita Falls dropped from 5A to 4A this year.

“Wichita Falls’ enrollment is 1299 which is the exact cutoff for 4A,” Norman said. “They have always had a great program and I think they have like 15 seniors on their team this year, so they are going to be tough.”

In 5A, the Raiders have competed in the regional finals a handful of times but have fallen just short of competing for a state title. Norman hopes the drop to 4A will be just what the Raiders need to get over the hump.

“In the tennis world, 4A is a lot different than 5A,” Norman said. “In some sports 4A is just is good as 5A, but in tennis, 5A has some studs. 4A isn’t as competitive.”

However, the Raiders aren’t relying on the drop to 4A alone to help them make school history, and they recognize they have some hurdles to overcome. The Raiders, who lost in the 5A regional finals to Abilene Wylie last year, also lost five seniors and seven varsity players to West Plains this season.

“Losing 12 kids off your varsity, we really had to have some players step up this year,” Norman said. “We have 10 seniors this year that are providing great senior leadership and we have some  freshmen and sophomores who have stepped in to fill in the gaps. It’s pretty impressive so far how all of our kids have bonded together and are getting it done.”

Norman emphasized that playing as a team is essential, especially in the fall season, where teams advance rather than individuals.

“The fall season is team tennis where there are 19 matches played and every match counts one point,” Norman said.

When Randall plays another school in team tennis, the first team to 10 points wins and gets the victory.

“We have drama on every court,” Norman said. “You may win a big match on one court then lose a big game and be down on the other court. Some of our administrators and people who have come to watch us say, ‘this is a lot more exciting than I thought it would be.”‘

The Raiders are hoping to carry that excitement with them all the way to the state tournament.

“That is one of the goals for the team this year,” Norman said. “Win a district championship and then make it to the regional finals where we’ve been four times before and hopefully get over the hump this year and make it to state in College Station.”