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Stratford ranked No. 16 in Texas entering Team Tennis season

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HOUSTON - Crystal Fain described the 2019 season as one of their "best years" since she arrived.

The Spartans early in the year broke into the Top 25 in the state, finished second in district and made it to the second round of the playoffs, finishing with an 18-4 overall record.

Well, 2020 has started off well for the Spartans - which had 98 players come out for tryouts a few weeks ago.

In the Texas Tennis Coaches Association Preseason Rankings, Stratford checked in at No. 16 in the state. The highest ranking in program history since moving to Class 6A.

"We were absolutely thrilled and shocked!," Fain, who was the 2020 VYPE Awards winner for Public School Tennis Coach of the Year, said. "We were thinking we would be around the same spot this year, so to jump eight spots was incredibly exciting!"

The Spartans return a solid core group for the 2020 season. Some of the names include Anna Thielemann, who played the No. 1 line for the girls. But along with her, there are a lot of players Fain is excited see serve it up, including an incoming freshman.

"There are a lot of exciting pieces in this group!," Fain said. "I think again the quality of our team top to bottom is what stands out and puts us at the spot we are. In particular, I can't wait to watch how freshman, Anna Sanchez, competes this fall. As a freshman, she'll be in the starting lineup in both singles and doubles."

Of course, the district match to circle will be September 29 when Stratford travels over to No. 2 Memorial.

"It seems to get bigger every year as we keep inching our way closer," Fain said. "They clearly have a tennis dynasty there, so we are thrilled to be considered in the same book as them. It will be a fun match to watch for sure!"

As Fain looks towards the fall season, which has seen its dates shifted just slightly due to COVID-19, having the state championships pushed into mid-November, the seventh-year coach is ready for this group to go "Above and Beyond".

"We are looking to go above and beyond in the classroom and on the court this year," Fain, who was the Spring Branch ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2019-2020, said. "As far as goals, we want to prove our ranking correct and move into the Top 15."