Rising Kempner tennis star roars to second state title

Kempner's Noey Do prepares to serve the ball during a match this season. The sophomore recently completed his campaign with a second consecutive Class 5A boys' singles state tennis state championship.

When Noey Do first picked up a tennis racket at eight years old back in Evansville, Indiana, he had no idea what would await him with the sport. It was something his dad motivated him to play, to help him stay active.

But nearly a decade later, the Kempner High School star and the sport he loves have become a match made in athletic heaven. Last week, the 16-year-old Do capped off his sophomore season with a second consecutive Class 5A boys’ singles tennis state championship at the Northside Tennis Center in San Antonio.

He defeated Comal Smithson Valley’s Rowan Olson (6-1, 6-2) in the quarterfinals and Sanjheev Rao of Frisco Liberty (6-4, 6-4) in the semifinals on April 25 before taking down Mission Sharyland’s Alan Gonzalez (6-2, 7-6) in the final on April 26. Do has now taken down Gonzalez in each of the last two state title matches after also besting him last season.

“I just felt the relief and the joy (when I got that final point),” Do said Monday. “I knew all the stress is going to be gone for this year.”

Last season, Do made school history as the first Kempner player to ever win a boys’ singles championship and the school’s first state tennis champion since a boys’ doubles title back in 1999. And last week, he added to a legacy that might very well already be cemented both at Kempner and around the state.

“I’ve never seen a more determined athlete in my years than Noey,” said Kempner head tennis coach Anne Southard, who has been coaching off and on since 1999. “His talents go beyond his years in terms of skill set, and he hates to lose more than any athlete I’ve ever seen. And he loves to win as much as he hates to lose.”

That desire, Do said, developed back almost as soon as he first began play competitively growing up back in Indiana. His dad may have been the initial motivation to play the sport, he said, but it soon became his passion.

Through the years, that passion and desire to win have just kept growing, according to Do. Now, he and the sport he loves are a perfect match that has led to an unprecedented individual run at Kempner.

“As I kept playing it and playing more competitions, I came to love the feeling of hitting the ball and love the feeling of winning,” he said.

Do has, in fact, won at Kempner. And then he has won some more, and eventually a little bit more. During his two seasons so far at Kempner, Southard said not only has Do not dropped a single match – he has not even lost a set during his young high school career.

That’s two seasons, with dozens of matches across district, regional, and state tournament play. And Do has mowed through all of them. And though she was hesitant to compare Do individually to other players that have come before him, Southard certainly knows a special talent when she sees one.

“Even when he’s down in a game, I feel comfortable he’s going to come back because he focuses so much when he’s down – just as much as he does when he’s up in a match,” she said. “… When he’s on the court, he’s so determined. It’s not cockiness, it is confidence that he can pull out shots and pull out games even when he’s down. It comes across as ‘he’s going to do this,’ and he does.”

Making it even more impressive in Southard’s mind, is the fact that Do spent the entire season dealing with the heightened expectations that accompanied his previous state title win. It can be tough for anyone, she said, let alone for someone at Do’s age.

“It’s that mindset that he’s going to keep pushing and keep going, and he does that better than any athlete I’ve seen on the tennis court,” she said.

To help quell the emotions and keep from losing sight of what was at hand this season, Do said his biggest help was doing his best to control his emotions at all juncture. He was focused, he said, on not allowing his emotions to dictate his play.

If he lost a point or felt anger bubbling up, he took a brief moment to take a breath. And then it was back to the business at hand.

“The way I train is that if I get mad, I don’t react. I just think about the next point, I stay positive,” he said. “And every night (leading up to state), I managed to (tell myself) not think about the things you can’t control.”

That mindset and control have now made him a two-time state champion. And for now, he’s just going to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

“(The emotions) are just all over the place with state,” he said. “So once I won the final point it was like I finally did it. It’s over.’”

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