Alcuin Tennis Tandem Makes History at State

TAPPS title winners found success through late-season decision

It was a calculated risk when Alcuin School tennis players Alex Bishop and Alex Blackwell — both singles specialists — decided to form a doubles tandem for the first time at the TAPPS regional tournament this spring.

A few weeks later, the payoff was a state title, marking the first for the school in any sport since starting a high school athletic program six years ago.

“We really haven’t had any opportunities where we had a realistic shot at championships,” said Alcuin athletic director Andy Silverman. “It was definitely a proud moment, knowing where the program started and where we’re at now.”

It was definitely a proud moment, knowing where the program started and where we’re at now.

Andy Silverman

The Hawks also claimed the overall boys team championship in the TAPPS 1A division at the state tournament in Waco, thanks to performances by Max Bassichis and Akshay Karthik in singles, as well as Johann Blackwell and Ian Espino-Barros in doubles.

Bishop and Alex Blackwell took an unusual path to the top. Bishop’s primary sport is basketball, while Blackwell focuses more on swimming and rowing.

Each admits to putting down their respective tennis rackets during the COVID-19 pandemic, with doubts about whether they had the passion to continue.

“I was kind of iffy coming back,” said Bishop, a junior. “Now I’m definitely going to put more work in and make this a sport past high school.”

At the state tournament, the duo survived a close match and a weather delay in the quarterfinals, then won a tight three-set contest in the semifinals. And that came without any help from their coach, Kym Malone, who stayed home because of COVID-19 quarantine protocols.

“There was a lot riding on those semifinal rounds. It was a high-pressure situation,” Silverman said. “They just played a really flawless championship match.”

In the final, the Alcuin pair defeated siblings Clayton and Jackson Darby of Longview Christian Heritage in straight sets.

“In the earlier matches, we were a lot more stressed,” Bishop said. “Once we got going, we got focused and got it done.”

Blackwell, a senior, hopes the accomplishment will help spur growth in tennis and other sports among the small student body at Alcuin, even among novices and newcomers.

Because [the school] is so small, it gave me the opportunity. I started getting better and better as I played and developed a stronger serve and a stronger forehand,” Blackwell said. “Just the fact that we won a state title, people can see that and try it out as well.”

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