Duo maintains success on court, academics

Rey Castillo By Rey Castillo

March 20, 2017 at 11:51 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2017 at 11:58 p.m.

Claire Wang, 17, practices hitting the ball. She has been playing tennis for seven years.

Claire Wang, 17, practices hitting the ball. She has been playing tennis for seven years.    Ana Ramirez for The Victoria Advocate

Claire Wang and Daniel Shay are making the most of their final season on the Victoria East tennis team.

The duo is coming off a first-place finish in a mixed doubles match at the Wharton Tournament on March 9, marking their fourth first-place finish this season. The two were also named first-team all-district in the fall, while compiling a 7-2 record.

But it isn't just the tennis court where the two seniors are making their mark. It's also inside the classroom.

Shay, who currently holds a 4.0 grade-point average, was named valedictorian of East's senior class. Wang, who also has a 4.0 GPA, is currently ranked fourth out of 360 seniors.

"My parents are the ones that told me that I was going to be valedictorian," Shay said. "It was a pretty big shock because I was hoping I would become one, and to actually hear it, it took a while to sink in."

"I was really happy about being ranked fourth," said Shay, who's been named first-team all-district for four years in a row. "I've had a lot of goals, and I've always tried my best in school."

This isn't the first time Titan tennis has experienced success off the court. In 2015, Wang's older sister, Teresa, was named salutatorian, while Kaylee Huang was named valedictorian.

"They're definitely leaders," said East tennis coach Tony Williams. "They've both been leaders on and off the court, and they do things the right way. I get feedback from teachers about their grades and that they're phenomenal students. They are both going to be successful no matter what they want to do."

Shay and Wang have been close friends since kindergarten at Dudley Elementary, but were separated when both began their freshman year of high school.

Shay attended Victoria West and St. Joseph his first two years of high school before reuniting with Wang his junior year.

Now, on the verge of graduation, the Whataburger Tournament on Friday and the Class 5A district meet less than a month away on April 6, the two are hoping to build momentum by earning a regional berth for the first time in the school's seven-year history.

"We're pretty comfortable with each other," Wang said. "Since we're playing with each other for the first time this year, I wasn't sure how long I'd work with him, but once we tried playing doubles, it's been great."

"Now its routine, Shay added. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. What helps us on the court is how well we know each other outside of tennis. Communication in tennis is important, and it helps us work better as a team."

Win or lose, Shay will be satisfied with what he and Wang have accomplished this season. But the 18-year-old admits it will be sweet to hold the district trophy.

"Since this is our last year at East, I want to feel like I've grown as a person, even if we don't make regionals," he said. "But hopefully we do get there, and hopefully win a trophy."

Williams is hoping his team will have a strong finish with Wang and Shay leading the way. The fourth-year coach started when Wang was a freshman, making this season extra special.

"They're both great kids, Williams said. "I've loved every minute with them. Four years with Claire and two years with Daniel, the best thing is that they've rubbed off on the underclassmen, which no doubt will step up and take their place when they graduate. Both of them have been down in so many matches and they always find a way to win."

After graduation, Shay hopes to attend either the University of Texas or Texas A&M, while Wang plans to attend Texas to play club tennis. But one thing is certain, both won't forget their time together with their coach.

"He's always been really helpful," Shay said. "I can tell he loves tennis, and he's really trying to grow the program at East. I'm so thankful that I was able to play under him this last year."

"Our coach understands our academics are our No. 1 priority in life," Wang said. "He lets us get practice to get our grades straight. And since we play in a lot of tournaments during school, he lets us know to get our work done and focus on tennis second."



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