Tennis Team Wins State Championship

The sun peeped it’s head as the Randall tennis team took the court at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station. A mixture of both excitement and nerves filled the chilly morning air as coaches and players took their spots for the biggest game of their life- UIL’s 4A Team Tennis State Championship.

Beginning the day, the Raiders had done everything right. They were 34-0 in the season, they were the first tennis team in school history to qualify for state, and with their 11-1 win over Lindale the day before, they had glided through the state semi-finals and delivered Coach Darby Norman his 300th career win.

But, today was the day. It was day the team had worked toward all season. For the seniors, it was a last chance and for Norman, it was the goal he had been trying to achieve but had fallen just short his entire coaching career. But today, the Raiders wouldn’t fall short. The seniors would conquer that last chance, and the Randall team would do what so many Raiders before them had tried to do. They would become state champions, but before that could happen they would have to defeat the one thing that stood in their way- Boerne.

In team tennis, the competition consists of a round of doubles matches followed by singles. Each match is one point and the first team to 10 wins the game. Matches started at 8 a.m. with seven points on the line with doubles. The Raiders and Boerne split the first six, 3-3.  The final doubles match involving Carson Dyess and Bryson Shelton went into a nail-biting super tiebreaker. With all eyes on the court and match point going back and forth, it seemed like the match would never end, but the Raider duo pulled it out to give Randall the 4-3 lead to start singles.

I told the kids when we made it to state, it wasn’t just them making it was everybody who has ever been a Randall Raider.

— Head Coach Darby Norman

Singles began and Boerne proved they weren’t going to give the Raiders the state championship easily. Landry Posey, Kaitlyn Craddock, Kynley Craddock, Elizabeth Hollabaugh and Aidan Gilbert picked up points for the Raiders, but Randall lost four others making the score 9-7 with three matches still in play.

Carson Dyess, Ella Hester and Gabby Dishong went into super tiebreakers. Dyess was the first to finish with Boerne coming out on top. It was now 9-8. Randall was still in the lead, but it was still anybody’s game and Hester was down. As Dishong battled at one end of the tennis center, Hester started to make a comeback on the other. Spectators, on the edge of their seats, bobbed their heads back and forth with Raider and Boerne fans trading times to erupt into cheer. Once again, Hester fell into match point, but this time she was in the lead. The noise fell silent as the ball went into play, then Hester delivered the final blow to Boerne. 10-8. The Randall Raiders were state champions.

“It’s special what we’ve been able to do this year,” player Dax Betzen said. “It’s surreal. Losing in the regional finals last year to Abilene Wylie really stung for everyone on the team. So, this year we came out, we knew we were favored to win and we fought and clawed and grinded our way here. It’s just so special.”

For Norman, this wasn’t a win for just this team, this year. This was a win for all of Raider Nation.

“I’ve been blessed to coach some great kids,” Norman said. “They’ve fought hard and listened and are coachable and it makes this worth it. I told the kids when we made it to state, it wasn’t just them making it was everybody who has ever been a Randall Raider.”