Tenacious Tennis Players Take Over Austin (in an Unmarked Van)


Debby Arnold

The night before the tournament began, the team got dinner and gelato in the Austin version of Clearfork.

Benjamin Hoppe, Online Editor

The timing was not great. The first ever Individual SPC Tennis Tournament was set to take place over the Prom weekend, leaving only seven out of the nearly 40 players on the team able and willing to attend. 

So, two days before Prom, Tucker Grubbs ’24, Benjamin Hoppe ’24, Alex Seiden ’25, Nara Acuña Guba ’25, Sloane Factor ’26, Lucas Rothenberg ’26, and Cricket West ’26 were loaded into an unmarked van with very tinted windows that was set to take us to a secluded, heavily forested area in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere being the outskirts of Austin, and the heavily forested area being the campus of St. Stephen’s. Despite the large amount of candy that was in the van, no children outside of the seven tennis players were enticed into joining the ride, unfortunately. As creepy and concerning as it may sound, the trip ended up being a very exciting and kachow-filled experience for all who attended.

On March 30, after an exhilarating ride in the van filled with many games of Mario Tennis and Mario Kart and a stop at Buc-ees, we made our grand arrival at our hotel in Austin. After becoming acquainted with our rooms containing the same number of TVs as beds, it was time to get back in the van. The team headed off to Doc B’s for dinner, and after being described by our waitress as our coaches’ children, we made our valiant return to our hotel for some games of Uno and to sort out the bedding situation.

We made a quick stop at Buc-ees on our van ride down to Austin. (Random Person at Buc-ees)

The next morning we set off to St. Stephen’s to actually fulfill the purpose of our trip. The day was filled with excitement, tennis, and most importantly, kachows. Lucas pulled out a terrific victory in his first round match, both doubles teams battled hard against strong opponents, and I left the campus that day being known as the “Kachow Kid.” But as the night before had proven, it was the time spent off the court that created some of the best memories. As mentioned before, the tournament was occurring at the same time as our school’s prom, so after taking some time to relax and shower after being around tennis courts for eight hours, Grubbs and I suited up, literally, and the team set off for BJs with some of us in full suits and ties. Continuing a joke from the night before, we celebrated my birthday, thus scamming a successful chain restaurant out of a whole six dollars for the free pizookie.* Finally, to end the night, we played an hour and a half game of Uno Flip, leaving all of us mentally broken, just like TVS’s tennis rackets.**

On the final day of the trip, we headed back to St. Stephen’s for a final round of matches. Despite the matches being lost by sizable margins, our spirits were still as high as ever, as we had another three-hour van ride and a stop at Buc-ees to look forward to. We got back to campus that afternoon, with no one harmed and no additional children in search of candy accidentally brought with us. All in all, the trip was a huge success.

Seeing as this was the first time a tournament like this was held, a lot could have gone poorly, but overall the FWCD tennis team had pretty similar feelings about the tournament and the trip as a whole.

“I thought [the tournament] was really well organized, and I liked that all the other schools were there,” Factor said. 

Along with the tournament being a good experience, the time spent off the tennis courts was a nice bonding experience for the team.

“I got to talk to a lot of the tennis players I don’t really know,” Acuña Guba said. 

The van rides, despite being quite lengthy, were also met with some optimism by the team.

“[The van rides] were quite fun as we played Nintendo tennis with the crew,” Rothenberg said.

Outside of Mario Tennis, the “crew” also partook in several games of Uno and one very lengthy game of Uno Flip. Although a good team bonding experience, as we sat on the floor next to the shower curtain, which was used as a blanket the night before, some of us were turned away from the magnificent game of Uno Flip.

“Absolutely not,” Seiden said in response to being asked if he would ever play the spectacular game ever again.

However, despite the insanity that took place during that game of Uno and the arguments over the coloring sheet in the kids menu, the team still had a good time.

On our final night in Austin, we had a wonderful time enjoying some pizookie at BJs (Benjamin Hoppe ’24)

“Yes [I would go again],” Acuña Guba said. “Despite me not being as good as the other players, I still thought it was fun and I got to learn and support my friends.” 

And for me, this trip definitely gave me some of the most fun I have ever had, even more so than the DC trip and the regular SPC tournament the previous year. So whoever organized this, good job, and please bring it back next year.

*Students from our school are very honorable and would never do anything intentionally to harm a restaurant business

**See Match Met for more details on the broken tennis rackets.