Former Austin star Bernstein has Clements strong and tough
Heading into his second year at the helm of the Clements tennis team, Brett Bernstein wanted to establish a tough, grit-and-grind mentality in the Rangers.
The Sugar Land native and former Fort Bend Austin standout has accomplished just that, and the Rangers are optimistic they have what it takes to make it to state in team tennis for the first time in about 30 years.
Clements, perennially a tough out in the region, has been ranked in the Class 6A top 10 in the state all season. The Rangers have beaten four top-10-ranked teams in The Woodlands, Tompkins, Seven Lakes and San Antonio Reagan.
"We felt like we had the talent this year," said Bernstein, who was part of a nationally ranked doubles team alongside his brother when he played collegiately at the University of Texas-Pan American in south Texas. "So, we're just working hard and applying that good work ethic with the talent.
Bernstein, who had previously coached collegiately at BYU and Texas-Rio Grande Valley and at the high school level at Shadow Creek High, sees himself as a "blue-collar" guy and has tried to implement that into any program of his. He desired a roster of players that are mentally tough and team oriented.
Bernstein encouraged players to practice after school together as a team instead of with their own personal programs or private lessons. He got his athletes into the weight room, once considered a foreign destination, twice a week.
"They've seen improvements in just being an overall athlete, not just a tennis player," Bernstein said. "It pays off in that we can go longer on court, have a quicker recovery, and can hit the ball harder. They're seeing better results.
"We had a match against Reagan in San Antonio (in early September) that went five hours long. We were down 5-2. But we dug deep, everyone fought their own individual battles, and we competed and evened it up at 8-all and beat Reagan, 10-8. It was a pretty good feeling on the bus ride home.
"We're building the team we want, because we know it will take a special team to win the regional tournament and make it to state. I saw we have the potential to do that."
Bernstein returned 10 of 12 starters from last year's team tennis regional quarterfinalist. Senior Gabriel Shu qualified for state in mixed doubles last season. Junior Nishil Gandhi is the boys team captain and No. 1 player.
The girls are the strength of the Rangers, with no drop-off from Nos. 1-6. Senior Sanjana Karnam is the girls team captain. The doubles duo of juniors Sammi Guse and Vivian Le lost in the regional semis last year but had one loss all year in the fall and the spring. Guse has not lost a match all season.
"The kids are making sacrifices and doing what it takes to do something special this year," Bernstein said. "We'll have to earn it, but they're starting to believe we can do it."