Center Team Tennis Wins First Two Rounds, Earns Rematch with China Spring in Round 3

Center Team Tennis Wins First Two Rounds,
Earns Rematch with China Spring in Round 3

By Chris Watlington

Freelance Writer


Last year, with a talented team of veteran boys and a roster of young and promising girls, Center’s Team Tennis squad easily marched through the first two rounds of the playoffs, looking to defend their Regional Championship from 2019 and return to the State Tournament: The Final Four.

But something happened in Round Three.  Officially it’s called “The Regional Quarterfinals.”  Unofficially it’s the “Sweet Sixteen”—only four teams left in each of the four regions. 

But last year, the Roughrider Tennis Team called it “The End.” 

In Team Tennis, thirteen players (usually) represent the school.  They begin playing seven doubles matches—three boys, three girls, one mixed doubles.  A win is a point for the team.  After doubles, the singles play begins—six scheduled boys matches plus six scheduled girls matches.

When a team reaches ten wins, the tournament is over.

“We had been winning 10-2 or 10-3,” last year’s senior player Jack Callen Watlington said.  “Many of our singles players never got to finish their playing because we’d win the tenth match pretty early.”

But against the China Spring Cougars, the Riders only led 4-3 after doubles, then got behind in the singles matches.  The tournament came down to the final, nineteenth game, won by China Spring in a nail-biter.

 “I’ve never been so disappointed,” then-junior Emilee Elliot said.  “It was a very long ride home.”

Now, in 2021, the team has earned a rematch with China Springs in Round Three, this time played at Jacksonville High School.

On Monday October 11, Center began the playoffs in the Bi-District Round (of 64) against Waco-Robinson.  The team finished the doubles round leading 5-2, then won five of the next six singles matches for a 10-3 win and another Bi-District trophy.

Center Motor Player of the Game Sayre Hall won her two matches in straight sets (doubles 6-2, 6-0 and singles 6-0, 6-2). 

 “I felt good out there and it seemed like my teammates did too,” Hall said after her last round.  “It’s a relief to just get started.”

Getting started has been a unique challenge for this particular team: Long-time coach Leon Dykes’ sudden illness has kept him from practice since the start of October.  The team has been making its way without him, guided by first year assistant Lori Manchack.

 “Definitely missing Coach Dykes,” Elliot said.  “But the seniors are trying hard to keep practices going like he would want them to be.  With Coach Manchack, I think it’s happening all right.”

On Thursday October 14, Center traveled to Groesbeck to take on Austin area high school Lago Vista in the Area Round (of 32).  Once again, Center jumped off to a 5-2 lead in doubles, then won five singles matches in a row for a relatively quick 10-2 win.

Center Motor Player of the Game Ian Williams won doubles with partner Lance Holloway and then took his single match with an aggregate 24-4 game count.

 “I think we’re heating up at the right time,” Williams said.  “I hope we can keep it going.”

In an interesting side note, CHS alumnus Darren Webb, class of 1987, is the principal at Lago Vista.  His friend James “Big E” Elliot, tennis parent and uber fan, organized a victory picture of all the Roughrider alumni/parents from the 80s.

 “We have been talking serious trash all week long,” Elliot said.  “Feels good to send Darren this picture.”

The stage is set for the rematch, Monday (October 18).  Like Center, China Spring is cruising through its draw, coming off a 10-4 Area win over Lake Belton.  The Regional Quarterfinals (Sweet 16) is scheduled for 2:00 pm in Jacksonville.

 “I was hoping for another shot at those Cougars,” Coach Dykes said in a phone interview.  “We’ve beaten them twice but they stung us last year.  Looking forward to the challenge Monday.”

The match will be available through live-stream podcast: hear the play by play and follow all the games with the interactive scoreboard provided by the Roughrider Broadcast team.  Go to, then into the search bar type roughridersports.

Or just go to this link:

The Light and Champion

137 San Augustine St.
Center TX 75935