HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS: Permian, Odessa High build toward district at Friday Night Lights Invitational

The Permian and Odessa High tennis teams are slowly building toward the postseason.

The two squads played their last event in their hometown Friday when the Panthers hosted the Friday Night Lights Invitational at the Permian and Ratliff tennis courts.

Both teams are still looking for that right blend between the youth and experience on their rosters.

“I’m really liking the results we’re having,” Permian head coach Meliton Morales said. “In the fall season, we had a lot of ups and downs because we have a lot of young players, but they’re learning. You can tell that it’s coming together and they’re gaining a lot from the experience.”

Morales said he’s looking at the doubles team of Zack Langham and Carlin Van in boys doubles and Kristen Woodward and Avery Morler on the girls side to make some noise for the Panthers in Midland at the district tournament next month.

“I think they’ll be going in as good contenders for us,” Morales said.

The Bronchos have improved since the fall as well, and head coach Mark Hunt said much of the improvement has come from the players learning to take the lessons from practice and incorporate them into their matches.

“They’ve really latched on to the key concepts and strategies that I’ve been trying to teach,” Hunt said. “They’re seeing evidence that it’s working. That’s what I’m real proud of.”

Karris Alvarez and Vasu Guptan represent the Bronchos best chance at a district title run in mixed doubles, and Hunt also expects good results from Tyler Griffith and Luis Esquibel in boys doubles.

“I keep saying ‘clean your game up 10 to 15 percent’ and we’ll make a run,” Hunt said.

The OHS coach is still working on the singles side and given the players a few things that will hopefully improve their games as the season progresses.

“Every coach would tell you that starting the point is the most important thing — not giving away free points as far as double faults and missed returns. Make that the No. 1 priority,” Hunt said. “With singles, it’s all about building the point and getting the ball deeper in the court, that way you’re opponent can’t hurt you.

“Doubles is all about aggression, aggression, aggression. We don’t want to end the point at the back of the court.”

San Angelo Central had given both Permian and OHS trouble the past couple of years, but with the district realignment taking place in the fall, that roll will be filled by Amarillo Tascosa, who Hunt said is one of the strongest teams they’ll see.

“We don’t know enough about Frenship, but Tascosa has proven themselves to be a powerhouse,” Hunt said. “They’re good, there is no way around it. No matter what event, they’ll be formidable. The rest of us can push them. There is great coaching in this district and all of us are hungry. We’re not scared of Tascosa. We’re just trying to find that niche and improve, that way we can scare them a little bit.”