Sibling act powers tennis team


By Scott Akanewich

Go to a Liberty Hill tennis match these days and it’s not unusual for senior Lorelei Fay to be playing, only to look over and see younger brother and freshman Patrick on an adjacent court.

“It’s exciting to be on the same team,” Lorelei said. “Everyone’s welcomed him onto the team.”

Never before have they been on the same team, so it’s something Lorelei has looked forward to, although it’s not the first time she’s had a sibling for a teammate, as older sister Caroline played for the Panthers before graduating in 2018.

According to Lorelei, it helps a great deal to have senior leadership to guide freshmen through the rigors of high-school competition, which is something she certainly had when she began her Panther career four years ago.

“The upperclassman on the team really helped me when I was a freshman,” she said.

One stark contrast between junior tennis and the high school game is the fact it’s a team competition, whereas junior players are strictly individuals competing on their own, so it takes some adjustment period in how one approaches matches, said Lorelei.

“One of the biggest differences is knowing your match isn’t about only you,” she said. “It’s more about playing for Liberty Hill than for yourself. Part of it is to support your teammates when you’re not on the court.”

One of the most valuable lessons Lorelei has learned and has now passed on to Patrick is the importance of maintaining a positive mental approach at all times on the court, especially when the going gets rough.

“You always need to have a good attitude on the court,” she said. “Because your match can turn around in a second.”

As for playing right across from Patrick during a match, Lorelei admitted to sneaking a peek every so often to see how little brother is doing.

“I try to support him as much as I can,” she said. “It really helps for us to support each other – it really means a lot when your sibling is supporting you.”

According to Patrick, having his sister waiting in the wings when he arrived on campus was a comfort.

“It’s cool because I already knew someone on the team,” he said.

Not only has he burst onto the scene as a freshman, but Patrick is already the No. 1 boys player for head Coach Philip Dodd’s squad, supplanting more experienced players in the process.

It’s all a bit overwhelming, said Patrick.

“I try not to put too much stress on myself,” he said. “But, it’s a lot of pressure. During my matches, I just try to stay calm and breathe.”

Lorelei isn’t surprised Patrick has climbed the ranks so quickly, although initially, she had some difficulty believing it had come to be.

“At first, I was shocked when I heard he was going to be No. 1, but so happy,” she said. “I’m really proud of him and how far he’s already come with the team. I always wanted him to be great – it means a lot for us to be on the same team and for him to be No. 1.”

Dodd knows all about what it’s like to have sibling teammates, he said.

“I was on my high school team with two of my sisters my senior year,” said Dodd. “I was very competitive. We finished second in state in team tennis, so it was nice to share that with siblings.”

Dodd said the two are alike, but very different at the same time.

“Patrick is a very aggressive player and Lorelei is more laid back,” he said. “But both are highly motivated to win and both hate losing. They both work extremely hard and put in lots of extra time outside of school tennis.”

Lorelei experimented with other sports, trying soccer, softball and gymnastics early on, but soon decided to dedicate herself strictly to tennis.

“I tried a lot of other sports, but tennis is the one which stuck with me,” she said. “One of the reasons I like it is it’s a sport anyone can play, which means all kinds of different people play.”

It also helps when you have an older sister who steadily works her way up from being No. 6 to No. 2 and finally No. 1 her junior and senior seasons to use for inspiration.

“I started out on JV my freshman and sophomore years,” she said. “But, I really wanted to be on the varsity, so during the summer, I worked really hard and went to a tennis camp at Texas A&M.”

Something else she did was to brave the Texas heat to practice on the purple courts of Liberty Hill against a familiar opponent.

“Patrick and I would come out here every day and play each other,” she said.

In that way, brother and sister helped each other become better players, said Lorelei.

“Patrick hits with more power than most girls, so it really helps now when I play,” she said. “Although when he would beat me, I’d be sad, but I knew it was helping me.”

Patrick’s No. 1 status so early on in his high-school career can be a double-edged sword, said Dodd.

“Patrick feels a little pressure being number one and has handled it well for the most part,” he said. “With him being at the top right now, he’ll get several losses, but will gain much-needed experience going forward in his high school career, especially since we’re most likely going up to Class 5A next alignment.”

Lorelei also realizes even though her brother is in for some tough competition this season, it will be better for him in the long run.

“Playing against other No. 1 boys is really helping him improve,” she said. “There’s definitely a difference playing players who are older and more experienced. But, I think he can get a lot better.”

Patrick also plays on the Panthers’ No. 1 doubles team with Zach Kizer and perhaps someday soon will team up with big sister in mixed doubles.

“I think eventually, we’ll play together,” said Lorelei.

But, for now, Patrick is strictly focused on what’s right in front of him and he’s enjoying every moment.

“I’m having a really fun time,” he said. “It’s pretty cool because there aren’t too many freshmen who are on varsity.”