When the Bay Valley Athletic League girls tennis tournament was held, the Deer Valley duo of Kayla Autajay and Lauren Sirmons claimed first place in the doubles tournament. It was a feeling that the Wolverines would get quite used to in the spring.
When the boys tournament was held later, a Deer Valley pair again finished first in the doubles tournament. This time it was Carlo Buenconsejo and Jacob Ea.
Heading into their respective tournaments, both teams felt good about the victories.
“My partner and I felt very confident about our ability to work together as a double pair, and we expected to go far. But winning was just the icing on the cake,” Sirmons said. “It felt liberating being able to show the rest of the high schools that they shouldn't underestimate DV. We played our hardest, our best, and we persevered throughout the game.”
“I was pretty much expecting it because there’s not a lot of great doubles players in our high school league. Carlo and I had been playing doubles together since the summer of 2019,” Ea said. “And we played because we wanted to play doubles at BVALs for the upcoming season but our season was cut short due to COVID.”
In both cases, the doubles teams comprised singles players who paired up a week before the BVAL tournament. As Ea said, the boys team did have experience with each other. Autajay noted, however, that she and Sirmons began practicing together just a week before the tournament.
So, while Autajay and Sirmons felt good about how they were playing, winning wasn’t necessarily the expectation. That made the victory feel all the more surprising.
“It didn’t feel real at first,” Autajay said. “I was quite comfortable to be in any place. This win was one to never forget.”
Buenconsejo added that the extra attention paid to his and Ea’s championship match added to the thrill of victory.
“It felt so great to win, especially when everyone was watching,” he said. “It was such a fun way to end the season with a very talented partner.”
One of the challenges in this particular season was the long layoff. The most recent girls high school season occurred in the fall of 2019. For the boys, not counting the brief season in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down, it was the first high school season since the spring of 2019.
Tennis is generally built well for social distancing. So although there were some differences, like wearing masks when not playing and everyone supplying their own tennis balls, gameplay itself was not as different as what other sports might have encountered. Still, Sirmons noted that the return to competition included some complications.
“The first match we played was a real eye-opener to me,” she said. “I knew not playing due to COVID would have some effect on me, but it really messed me up. It was as if my tennis IQ went out the window. However, as the season went on, I worked with my team and by myself to get my tennis game back. All the hard work I put into this sport really showed during the BVAL tournament.”
Wolverines coach Conan Moats added that the wins were big not only for the four players but also for the overall program, as it showed the growth that’s occurred. Even better is that there’s potentially more growth to come.
Beyond representing Deer Valley, the two championship doubles teams have something else in common. Both include one senior and one player who will be back next year. Sirmons and Ea will both graduate, while junior Autajay has one year left and sophomore Buenconsejo has two.
In both cases, the graduating teammate gave a special mention to their younger partner, noting how much playing with them added to their final experiences in high school tennis.
“I couldn't have wished for a better partner, and I wouldn't have made it as far as I did without Kayla Autajay,” Sirmons said. “I wish her all the best and a big win for her senior year.”
“Shout out to my doubles partner, Carlo. It was fun to play my last BVALs with you, bro,” Ea added. “I hope you have fun playing tennis the next couple years at Deer Valley.”