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Following a one-point defeat a year ago Lake Travis wants the win Thursday more than ever.

The tennis team will host new district rival Westlake in a showdown between two of the top teams in Texas, and there’s more on the line than ever this year.

The winner will snag the home court edge if (and likely, when) the two teams meet again in the district championship, but without getting too far out front, the upcoming match is coveted by both sides a year after Westlake took a 10-9 win.

The team’s approach is quite different from a season ago.

“I think we always go in a little overconfident against Westlake and it’s in the past really hindered us,” senior Ryan Brown said. “We’re ready to go in and beat them but we aren’t going to be too cocky this time.”

Lake Travis picked up four big wins at the A&M Consolidated tournament in College Station Sept. 14-15, and followed that up with wins over Austin High and Bowie to move to 8-1 on the season.

The lone loss for the No. 13-ranked (Wilson/TTCA Rankings) Cavs came in the season-opener against No. 8 Westwood, which might boast the strongest boys’ players in the state.

Westlake comes in ranked fifth, and sports some of the strongest girls players in the area, if not state, as well.

“At Westwood, we were kind of a lot of our guys were kind of lackadaisical – me included,” sophomore Nick Ruzicka said. “We weren’t where we should be, and now we’re much more fired up before matches, and we go out there to try and win everything.”

Doubles play always starts the day and the 4 p.m. match with Westlake will be no different, except there’s a bit of added pressure to take a leg up in doubles because a few wins in singles after that can wrap up the day.

“Last year was weird. We lost by one, there were a lot of weird matches going on, and this year we’re fired up and ready to play,” junior Tristan Wise said. “I feel we can win most of our matches and the key to winning that match will be doubles, making sure that we win our doubles and keep ahead during it.”

Coach Carol Creel echoed that sentiment, as focus in practices lately has been on doubles play.

“We’re working on everything to do with doubles because that sets the tone of a team tennis match,” Creel said. “The boy’s side is playing really solid. We hope they come out firing in doubles and playing with confidence.”

A little shuffling has led to even better results for Lake Travis as the boys side has teamed up Wise and Ruzicka, Adam Dokos and BG Slay, and Jay Spiers and Erik Kerrigan.

In an 11-4 win over Austin High Sept. 21, the girls doubles teams of Carli Knezevich and Remi Immler, Emily Cotton and Bailey Meyer and Kristen Thorne and Camille Muscariello all took easy wins.

“We moved the lineup around a little bit and found some teams that are jelling together had some great tune-up matches with Bowie and Austin High,” Creel said. “They have some great doubles teams, so that was great practice for us. We always feel good about the way the girls are playing.”

Westlake and Westwood both went 4-0 at the A&M Consolidated tournament as well. Lake Travis earned wins over No. 22 Klein (10-7), No. 16 The Woodlands (11-3), College Park (10-2) and Katy-Taylor (13-6).

“We’ve been pretty confident; we beat four really good teams and beat them pretty handily,” Wise said. “I feel like our girls are as strong as any of them out there. Westlake’s first boy or two might be a little stronger than us, but after that I think we’re just as strong as they are, and we can definitely pull out all the matches, and in doubles I believe we can beat any team out there.”

Westlake might have its strongest team tennis squad in some time.

“Westlake is always going to be a tough team, we always have tough matches with them, their team this year is better than it’s ever been, so we’ll go out there with nothing to lose and try our hardest,” Ruzicka said.

Though each team is trying to gauge the matchups ahead of time, the match Thursday will act as a feeling out process for both sides regardless of the outcome.

“We’ve played them all pretty much as individuals outside of high school,” Brown said. “Definitely, we should be playing Westlake in the district final so we want this to show that we’re ready to beat them in the district finals and go to regionals.”

Each side has admitted to being especially pumped up for this match, but Creel is trying to temper that to some degree.

“Definitely, this is the tune-up match for the big match – the district final, we hope. We still have to get through another team before that happens,” she said. “We played some strong teams but Westlake would be a stronger team than most of the teams we’ve played so far.”

The match is set for 4 p.m. at Lake Travis.

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