Nederland’s Wong eyes next step in state

Published 11:16 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

NEDERLAND — Jayci Wong wants this year to be a little different from the last.
She’s achieved quite the accomplishment for a sophomore of repeating as District 22-5A singles tennis champion and 5A Region III runner-up. But when the 5A state tournament begins Thursday at Texas A&M, Wong wants to go where no Nederland player has gone before.
That’s past the first round.
Wong has already made school history by becoming the first lady Bulldog to make two state tournaments. Her focus on this year’s pursuit doesn’t require much pressure to win.
“Probably just getting everything in tune and focus on not winning but having a good time and playing my best,” she said.
She said her father David, who is the head coach the Lamar women’s team, isn’t adding any pressure, either.
‘So I play from within,” she said.

The road back to state
Coming off her second straight district title, Wong was much more familiar with the road back to College Station.
It went through the Region III tournament in Willis. Wong was seeded third and reached the semifinals before dropping into the playback rounds, which she won to advance.
“I definitely knew what I was up against, because everyone I played last year, they were all freshmen like me,” Wong said. “I pretty much played the same people, so I knew what to focus on and what I had to do.
“It’s probably the luck of the draw. All these people are Super Champs (a level in the U.S. Tennis Association) with me, so I know most of them. We grow up together, so it’s cool to play with them.”
And — wouldn’t you know it — two Jaycis will square off in the first round. Wong will face Dripping Springs’ Jayci Goldsmith at
9 a.m. Thursday. The winner will take on either Gretchen Pfeiffer of Colleyville Heritage or Alli Ziehm of Little Elm.
Nederland coach Jorge Lopez said Wong has gotten more powerful in her game, but she needs to gain some confidence in her state title quest.
“She steps in the ball a lot harder,” Lopez said. “She hits winners on guys or anybody. She’s hitting the ball at the college level. … As a matter of fact, she’s the best girl to come through the Nederland tennis program. She’s only a sophomore, so she’s acquired a lot.”

Bulldog tradition
Wong has played a big role in Nederland’s championship tradition.
The Bulldogs won the 22-5A team tennis title last fall for the 23rd time in program history and the district spring title for the 24th time. On the boys side, senior Tyler Williams and junior Alex Luketich won the district doubles title this spring but fell in the first round of regionals.
Lopez is the only head coach in program history, having started in 1990.
“I have some great kids,” Lopez said, noting Wong is the fourth Nederland girl to make state. “They come to practice. They are disciplined.”
Lopez figured when he first saw Wong play he just had to polish her game more.
“She started at an early age, which really helps when you play tennis,” he said. “… Nowadays, we have to work on her game because she has to adjust her game. She grows a little older, a little stronger and a little taller, and everybody else does, too. First, it’s consistence, then it’s control. Now, they’re hitting the ball with power and control, so she’s got it all.”
And two visits to College Station — so far — to show for it.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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