Mixed-doubles team places at state, 1st time in 7 years

Sophomore and freshman match up, work together


Sofia Ayala

Celebrating, sophomore Nicole Steel and freshman Matteo Mejia prepare for the state championship. Both of them have been on the varsity team since their freshman year. This is the first time a PHS tennis team has gone to state in seven years.

Nicole and Matteo set an example on our team because they push us to be better everyday. Nicole is only a sophomore, and Matteo is only a freshman, (while) most of our team is full of upperclassmen with the exception of five underclassmen. They continuously challenge us to work harder and achieve bigger and harder things. Especially with Matteo going to state as a freshman, and Nicole as a sophomore, when it hasn’t been done in seven years for tennis… it makes the whole team want to be better.

— Marianna Avendano, junior

Working as a team to secure the win of a match, sophomore Nicole Steel and Freshman Matteo Mejia celebrate each other’s successes during practice. After a successful season, Steel and Mejia are moving to the state level for doubles. This is the first time in seven years that Prosper High School’s tennis team has moved on to state.

“State is an exciting time to go and prove that we are really supposed to be out there (…) competing with all these other great players,” Mejia said. “And, I mean, we’re the only ones on our team that made it, so I feel like that’s a great accomplishment, since we’re still pretty young. So, that’s a really good accomplishment for high school.”

The state doubles match will take place today, April 25, in San Antonio.

“I’m excited about representing us, because I’ve seen so many of my friends in the past go and represent their schools,” Steel said. “And, I’m just happy we have the chance to do that for both of our last years here.”

Both players will be attending Walnut Grove next year. Throughout the season, Steel and Mejia have motivated each other to stay in the right mindset for future matches. 

“I feel like it’s just a lot of calming down. Like, even if we miss a shot, you know, we always go back, and when we high five each other and then we say, ‘It’s all right, let’s go. We got the next one,’” Mejia said. “There was this one match where I just totally choked these two match points, but Nicole just said, ‘It’s all right,’ and we got it back together, even though we lost that game.”

Steel and Mejia have been on the varsity team for their entire high school careers.

“I want to win it, but just getting here is a big achievement. So, anything after this is just a big plus,” Steel said.  “The team we’re playing, Westwood, their high school is known (well) for tennis, and it’d be a great honor to beat them.”

Coach Mandy Weaver and Asst. Coach Brandon Womack have helped Steel and Mejia reach higher goals throughout the season.

“A lot of times they’re able to see stuff that we can’t see. You know, they are able to see the whole point where sometimes (…) we have blinders on. We can only see what we’re doing and what our partner’s doing,” Steel said. “So, a lot of times they’re able to help us with that, help with tactical stuff. But a lot of times, especially for me, there, they help more like mentally and emotionally.”

Steel will transfer to Walnut Grove HS next year and continue pursuing her passion for tennis.

“Coaches help us a lot, Mejia said. “Sometimes where I don’t agree with them, you know, they really help us on changeovers,” Mejia said “They always provide encouragement, and they always say good stuff about us and they always try to protect us from other teams if they’re heckling us, so it’s really good to have them around during our matches.”

Besides being able to grow athletically, tennis gave Steel and Mejia other opportunities along the way.

“Tennis has given me lifelong friends. I can go places in the middle of nowhere playing a tennis tournament, and I’ll almost always know someone,” Steel said. “And, one of the things my mom always told me, is that when she went off to college, she recognized and made friends with a lot of people she used to play tennis with back when she was younger. And she said that’s the most valuable thing she gained from it. So, I think it’s the same for me.”

Steel and Mejia also participated in singles matches throughout the season.

“One of the things I’m most excited about for going to state is getting to see all my friends that are going to be there,” Mejia said. “And I know I’ve made memories that are going to last a lifetime for me and I’ll never forget them. So I think that’s the best thing that tennis continues to give me.”

Making it to state felt fulfiling for Steel and Mejia, as both faced difficulties in district and regionals.

“We were able to make it through a really tough district and then an even tougher region. So just knowing we got to state is honestly really exciting,” Steel said. “I’m excited to go there and compete and play against other people who have earned it just as much as we are.”

I think they demonstrate excellent teamwork and communication on the court, and always have high energy during practice.

— Jillian Royster, senior

Steel and Mejia also play tennis outside of their school team.

“Tennis has taught me how to be more patient, be more open to try new ideas, trying new things,” Steel said. “Matteo has taught me a lot in doubles. (He’s) helped me not only grow as a teammate, and as a tennis player, but as a person, because he’s taught me some valuable life lessons, and helped calm me down and helped with my anxiety. So, that’s helped a lot.”

Steel and Mejia are looking forward to the opportunities state has for them as well as the final outcome.

“It’s probably going to see other schools and other people like that are really good at the sport,” Meija said. “There are plenty of people over there that are way better than me, but I mean, it’s cool to see how I can compete with them. Going out there and being with your friends, that’s great. I’ve always had fun whenever we do that.”