Chemistry has always been key when it comes to finding a doubles partner.
For Van Alstyne’s Ben Williams and Luke Fontenot, it dates back to kindergarten and was solidified further over the past three seasons as their senior year comes to an end.
For Whitesboro’s Paige Banks and Caleb McCoy, it was an easy transition as they both were searching for new partners due to graduation, started with a win in their first tournament together and haven’t looked back.
The doubles duos will look to keep that connection going, just three wins from a state title, at the Class 3A tournament at Texas A&M on Thursday and Friday.
Williams and Fontenot will play at 10:30 a.m. against Ingram Moore’s Jayden Hughes and Alex Soto for a spot in the semifinals later in the day while Banks and McCoy take on Woodville’s Caleb Powell and Malaysia Williams in a quarterfinal match at 1:30 p.m. with a chance to advance to the semis that evening.
“I’m really excited,” Banks said. “I think we have the potential to do very well.”
This is McCoy’s second straight state appearance — he and Scott Gautier were quarterfinalists last spring. But when McCoy and Banks, who played girls doubles last spring, were planning to play singles, they got matched and success started immediately.
“I had a back issue so that transitioned into doubles because it would be easier on the injury,” McCoy said. “We got first that first tournament we played and we knew this was going to go well.”
Added Banks: “I think it’s been a pretty good match from the start. Our playing styles are similar.”
Banks and McCoy won the Region II championship with a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory against Gladewater’s Gage Mitchell and Michelle Teve.
It was the second straight match where they had to come from behind. White Oak’s Jesse Gaut and Ashlee Wyatt opened the semifinals by taking the first game, 4-6, before Banks and McCoy rallied with 6-3, 6-0 victories.
“The final was tougher because there was a scoring controversy,” McCoy said. “The one seed gave me confidence. I like people coming for us.”
They beat Edgewood’s Shannon Baker and Nicholas Prestidge, 6-0, 6-1, in the quarterfinals after having a first-round bye as the tourney’s top seed.
This is the fourth straight year Van Alstyne has sent a doubles team to state — Janea Larriviere and Noah Tormos went the previous two seasons and Brandon Balch and Sydney Simmons were mixed doubles qualifiers in 2016.
“It’s cool to have the torch passed onto us,” Williams said.
Getting to state is a bit of shocker for the two, who weren’t even regional qualifiers the previous two years they competed together.
“Never really expected it. We were like, ‘let’s just make it to regionals,’” Williams said. “Now I guess we have a chance since we’re at state. It’s our senior year and it’s our most improved year.”
Williams and Fontenot advanced to state with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over White Oak’s John Langley and Nathan Wood in a playback.
“We made it and there’s a happy feeling of being there but also wanting to destroy whoever’s next,” Fontenot said. “We’ve put in the time. We wanted it more. We knew we had to push through and win.”
The duo had lost in the final, 6-2, 7-5, against Blue Ridge’s Jared Stroman and Nolan Henderson — who also beat them for the District 10-3A title — after a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Collin Sewell and Chandler Hall of Mount Vernon in the semifinals.
When Langley and Wood won the third-place match, Williams and Fontenot had to quickly rebound from the title-match defeat with a state berth again on the line.
The duo opened the tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Daingerfield’s Joshua Sutton and Justin Bailey, then beat Alba Golden’s Gabe Barnett and Byron Wade, 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.