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TAPPS 4A Champion Northland girls tennis reloading, not rebuilding
From left to right: Senior Sarah Navid, Northland Christian Tennis head coach Elizabeth Bohannon and freshman Elyse Dewbre. Though 2017's state title run was an unprecedented step forward for the program, there is very reason to believe that the Cougars could be even better next year.
The following article was originally published on Chron.com
By Kevin Cook | April 15, 2017
For Northland Christian's Sarah Navid, it was not the third, but the fourth time that was charmed.
The senior tennis star had been a mainstay at the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state tournament, qualifying as a freshman and returning each subsequent year.
For three straight years, Navid didn't win a match. This year, she didn't lose one.
With a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win against Geneva School of Boerne's Ally Dollander in the TAPPS 4A Girls State Finals Tuesday, April 11 at the Waco Regional Tennis Center.
Navid is still enjoying the sensation of finishing the season with a win. Even going into the tournament, 'winning it all' wasn't necessarily what was foremost on Navid's mind, which made the victory all the sweeter.
"It was definitely rewarding," Navid said. "I practiced the most for this state tournament. The last three years, I didn't expect anything, but this year, I thought maybe I could at least win one round. Previously I hadn't won. It felt good to finally be able to win."
'Charmed' might not be a fair description. Speaking to the radical, night-and-day difference between her first three seasons competing in the state tournament and her dominant run through the bracket this year, reeling off wins 6-0, 6-0; 6-2, 6-1; and 6-4, 6-1 to reach the finals, Navid said diligence – wholehearted commitment to practice – was the catalyst for the leap forward. The preparation inevitably led to confidence, which led to the title.
"It was part practice and part confidence," Navid said. "Not having confidence going into it hurt me [before]. This time, I felt like I should win, so that helped me propel myself further."
Navid's older brother, Daniel, was the state runner-up last year for the Northland boys, and she said that owning the bragging rights in the family is a sweet feeling.
Sweeter still was the Northland girls' overall performance. The Cougars racked up 18 total points, well ahead of runner-up Faith Academy of Marble Falls' 14, winning the 2017 TAPPS 4A Girls State Title.
Changing of the guard
Navid's graduation in May will close the book on one era of Northland tennis. The two Navids helped elevate the tennis program to state-caliber level, under the guidance of head coach Elizabeth Bohannon.
Aside from Navid, every other player on the state-title squad will return next season. Losing a singular, state-title-winning talent like Navid is a blow, but the continuity and progression point to a team that could be stronger next year than it was this year.
Expect to see Elyse Dewbre's name around this time next year.
Dewbre, a freshman who had never played competitive tennis or trained prior to this season, not only qualified for state, but won her first two matchups 6-4, 7-6; 6-4, 6-4 before falling to Dollander, Navid's finals opponent, good for third place in singles competition.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dewbre's expectations prior to the tournament were considerably more modest than her ultimate achievements.
"I wasn't expecting anything going in, because I was a freshman," Dewbre said. "I was competing against everyone else who had been playing for a long time, and I had just started. It was really fun. I enjoyed the experience, and I was proud of how far I got."
That kind of remarkable development is rare, and requires the right blend of innate talent and culture to occur. Dewbre credits Navid with setting a good example for the rest of the team, in terms of attitude, effort and preparation.
Both players agree that Bohannon's impact on the team is immeasurable. Dewbre alluded to a poster hanging inside the school in describing her head coach.
"There's a sign in our cafeteria that says, 'a good coach doesn't see you as the athlete you are, but the athlete you could be,'" Dewbre said. "That describes her more than anything else. She sees our potential, and she tries to push us."
Navid also uses the word push to describe Bohannon's impact, and both mean it in a decidedly positive way.
"[Bohannon] pushes me," Navid said. "She was honestly one of my driving factors. I don't want to go out there and embarrass my coach. She inspires me to push harder."
The handoff between the past and present face of Northland Girls Tennis and the future could not be smoother. As Douglas S. Looney said of the Ohio State Buckeyes in a 1976 issue of Sports Illustrated, "They don't rebuild. They reload."
With Dewbre earning third-place honors less than a calendar year after first picking up a racket and all but one of the state-title squad returning next year, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
No one is saying repeat. But there's no way no one is thinking it.
"I think the future is bright," Bohannon said. "The girls – and the boys – that we took this year saw what it was about. And I think they all came back hungry for more."
A hungrier Northland Christian girls tennis team is the last thing the other TAPPS 4A teams need, but – barring unforeseen circumstances – it might be exactly what they'll get.