High school singles tennis exists simultaneously an individual and a team sport.
The athlete competes as an individual but his coaches and teammates spend countless hours helping in preparation. If a team is successful enough, two of its players could end up facing off in the finals. The team wins either way in that scenario, but only one player takes home the gold.
That situation could become a reality for the Robinson tennis team at the UIL State Tournament at the Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station Monday and Tuesday.
Robinson sophomores Casey Voss and Noah Wingate both qualified for the state tournament Class 4A singles competition and have a shot to play each other in the finals.
The two have already faced off in the finals of four tournaments this year. Wingate won each time, but Voss is no slouch. In fact, Voss hasn’t lost to a single 4A tennis player this year except Wingate.
Still, Wingate isn’t shying from the challenge. Robinson coach Jack Gregory said Wingate is prepared for the matchup if it comes.
“Casey plays a heck of a match against him, but he hasn’t been able to beat him just yet,” Gregory said. “He has it in his mind, he would love to beat him on the big stage.”
There’s no bad blood between Wingate and Voss despite their battles on the court. They remain friends and strive to help each other get better.
“They’re the only two on our team who can play at that level,” Gregory said. “So from last August to right now they face each other and push each other. I know that’s helped them improve.”
Wingate qualified for state as a freshman last year. He won his first-round match and then lost to the eventual state champion in the semis. Wingate said he wasn’t completely prepared for the pressure of last year’s state spotlight but he’s taking a new approach this time.
“I was nervous last year and I really don’t know why,” Wingate said. “So this year I’m just going to go in with a free spirit and let whatever happens happen.”
Voss also learned a valuable lesson from last season. He played doubles but lost in the regional tournament.
“We lost in the second round,” Voss said. “But it was a good experience because I didn’t know how good the people at regionals were. I figured it out really fast.”
The two spend about three hours a day honing their craft. They practice at Robinson from 2:50 to 5 p.m. and then go to private lessons for around another hour. They each also earned Super Champ status in the United States Tennis Association.
Gregory said it would be fulfilling to see either player’s hard work pay off with a state title.
“Sometimes you see people win things and they don’t put the effort in, they’re just that good,” Gregory said. “These guys are that good because they worked that hard over the years. Those are the kinds of kids I would love to see win.”
Wingate and Voss differ in their styles of play. Gregory said Wingate is a quick player who gets to the ball.
“There are so many points in a match where I’m ready to tell the other guy, ‘Good shot. You got the point,’” Gregory said. “But someone Noah gets to the ball and hits a wonderful shot the other way.”
Voss is more of a power player, Gregory said.
“Casey loves to hit hard,” Gregory said. “He can really drive the ball. He likes to go to the net and try to end some points that way. He tries to change things up more and that makes his game unpredictable.”
Wingate and Voss have to make it through a quarterfinal and semifinal round before either of them can play in Tuesday’s final. It will be the toughest competition they’ve faced all year.
But Gregory said he thinks his athletes have a good shot at going far. An all-Robinson final is the ultimate dream.
“There’s no way both of them can win it,” Gregory said. “But I sure would like to see them play each other in the finals. I’ll leave the court and go sit in the stands and watch. I’ll be happy either way. It would mean a whole lot.”