VAN ALSTYNE — The dynamic tennis duo of Noah Tormos and Janea Larriviere is set to represent Van Alstyne in the state tennis meet on Thursday at Texas A&M University.

This will not be their first trip to a state meet — the mixed doubles partners qualified last year and lost in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-4 against Woodville’s Cameron Coker and Lyndsey Kinard. After spending most of the 2017 playoff run as alternates they joined together when the original pairing had to withdraw from the region tournament.

Being thrown to together had its challenges, obviously, but the two are much more comfortable this time.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses. We built trust. We know each other on and off the court more,” Larriviere said. “We definitely came in more prepared.”

Tormos and Larriviere stepped up and were unstoppable at regionals despite the lack of experience together and a return to state was on the agenda since the season began.

“I certainly felt the pressure through every tournament because of the expectation from last year,” Larriviere said.

Added Tormos: “We know each other a lot better and there were people who looked at us and talked about us as the team that went to state, so we had to live up to that.”

Winding through the season and then the district and regional tournaments provided some challenges but the road ultimately led back to state.

“That was their goal from the very beginning, they wanted to go back to state, that was the goal from day one,” Van Alstyne tennis coach Julie Thomas said. “They have both picked up their game a lot since last year. They worked hard over the summer and off-season to get their game down and make sure they got back to state this year.”

The doubles team was dominant during the 2018 regular season, winning every match except against Lone Oak, who gave the duo their only two losses of the season. Lone Oak went on to win the district as well as make it to state themselves as the region champ with a victory over Van Alstyne again. But the team seems unfazed and the Panthers wouldn’t see their nemeses until the state championship match.

“They started asking me what they can do to prepare for state, back in September,” Thomas said. “It was their only focus. They will work hard and will try their best to win it all.”

They will play Sonora’s Brian VanWinkle and Peyton Matthews in a quarterfinal match at 1:30 p.m. on May 17 and a win would put them in the semifinals later that day against either Goliad’s Barbara Cosper and Jake Billo or Wallis Brazos’ Kennedy Jetelina and Kyle Nieman.

“We know what we have to do compared to last year,” Tormos said. “It helped to know what it’s like there, see and experience that so we can do even better this time.”