Klein’s Cannon has tennis program in position for success
The Klein tennis program’s discussions early in the year were primarily about tradition and teamwork.
The goal for 16-year head coach Holly Cannon was to get back to the region tournament.
The players realized that they are a part of a long tradition of high level tennis, that it would take a strong team effort to make it happen with tough competition.
“With such a large number of seniors, this year was the culmination of a four-year long work in progress that came to fruition with our outstanding team tennis performance this year, something that was truly a team effort,” Cannon said.
Senior Sonya Bhakthavachalam and sophomore Paula Cerda finished second out of 250 teams in the girls’ doubles at the UIL Tennis State Tournament, May 17-18, at George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station.
“I would say the key to their success was learning to rely on each other’s strengths,” Cannon said. “Their games are very different so they have the ability to keep opponents off balance if they will work together and set each other up to make their signature shots.”
In addition, the Bearkats added some talented and promising freshman who improved throughout the year and are poised to step up next year and fill the holes left by the departing seniors.
The team of Bhakthavachalam and Cerda was undefeated through the regular season, district and region and went three sets in the state final.
The team placed second at state with a 7-6, 4-6, 1-6 loss to Plano West.
“While it was a tough loss coming up that little bit short, we are all extremely proud of them,” Cannon said. “Sonya placed third in mixed doubles at state her freshman year and has become even stronger as a doubles player since then.
“And Paula placed third in the region in mixed doubles last year, so when they decided to team up this year the expectations were high.”
Last year in fall team tennis, the Bearkats advanced as a team to the region quarterfinals.
Both teams placed second in District 15-6A in the spring and advanced the girls doubles all the way to the state tournament. 13 seniors graduated.
This year in team tennis, the Bearkats finished second in district to Memorial, won Bi-District against Spring, and won the Area against Austin Anderson, before losing in the region quarterfinals to Westwood.
In the spring, the boys team finished second overall in district and the girls placed second overall with first place in girls doubles.
Memorial finished first overall in both boys and girls.
“I am proud of every player for staying positive and continuing to work,” Cannon said. “I really feel that the kids who kept going and gave it all right up to the spring district deserve a huge amount of respect and recognition.”
Bhakthavachalam and Cerda were big contributors all year.
“In team tennis we also had a huge contribution from Alexis Odom and really our entire girls lineup,” Cannon said.
The Bearkats had six girls and seven boys this year who were seniors, including captain Bhakthavachalam and co-captains Vanna Do, Vaishnav Kuruvanka and Miko Dawili.
“Particularly during team tennis their leadership was key to keeping everyone working hard toward our common goal,” Cannon said.
Underclassmen who stepped up were Cerda and sophomore Alexis Odom, who combined in team tennis as the number one girls doubles, losing only two matches.
“On the boys’ side, Ronnie Diep and Josh Khim really showed some grit winning some key matches against tough odds,” Cannon said.
Next year’s team will have a different look and feel without the graduated seniors.
“We will have strength at the top of the girls’ line-up but not the depth that we had this year,” Cannon said. “I am looking for big performances from Paula and Alexis again.”
Beatriz Avila-Rimer and Oyky Saracoglu are also both strong players who should play a key role.
On the boys’ side, Patrick Sim and Cameron Smith will likely compete for the number one spot, according to Cannon. With Josh Khim, Ronnie Diep, Druva Kora and Kayron Alba returning strong.
Cannon completed her 16th year coaching at Klein, all as head coach.
“We have a number of players coming up who have shown a lot of improvement over the course of this year and will step into those varsity spots left open by the seniors,” Cannon said.