A year removed from the fires that plagued Southeast Texas, its refineries and air quality, the 70th annual Baytown Invitational tennis tournament is ready to get back in action.

Following last year’s cancellation due to concerns of air quality caused by the ITC explosion in Deer Park that made national news, Robert E. Lee, Sterling and Goose Creek Memorial are ready to defend their homecourts once again in a long-time event.

Approximately two dozen teams are set to battle it out starting between 8-8:30 a.m. Thursday at all three high schools’, Lee College and La Porte High School’s tennis courts.

Sterling will host boys and mixed doubles matches, GCM will be the site for girls singles and boys doubles, La Porte will showcase boys singles and girls doubles, boys and girls singles will take place at REL and Lee College will showcase girls and mixed doubles competitions.

“The Baytown Varsity is one of the oldest tournaments in the area that has continued to be hosted by (REL) each year,” Sterling head coach John Tremmel said. “For the players it is always exciting to get to play on your home turf and getting a win at the Baytown Tournament is a big deal for my team. The seniors last year were pretty bummed they were not going to get to compete in one last year. I am glad the seniors this year will get to compete.

“I like where my teams stack up against the competition this week, I think we should be projected to do well across the board.”

REL head coach Brandon Funderburg is looking forward to getting this tournament back on after a year’s delay.

“We are excited to continue that tradition and welcome schools from around the area for a great day of tennis,” he said. “Our tournament provides a unique opportunity for schools from the Beaumont area and the Houston area to see competition they may not encounter until regionals.”

This year’s field includes the reigning Class 5A boys champion, Brandon Do from Nederland and Region 3 qualifiers Megan Do (Nederland) and Brooke Benoit (Sterling).

“Littered throughout the draws are players who are USTA ranked challengers, champs and super champs,” Funderburg said. “Several playoff teams from the team tennis season including Friendswood, Sterling, GCM, La Porte, Kingwood Park, Barbers Hill, Clear Springs, Dawson, Galveston Ball, Nederland have entered this tournament. We expect to have a great tournament and look forward to the competition.”

GCM’s head coach, Ismael Dutchover, sees his kids get a bit more amped up for this tournament.

“The kids tend to play with a little more sense of pride because it is local, and they kind of see it as defending their turf so to speak,” he said. “They get excited being able to play in front of more people that typically do not travel to go watch them at other tournaments.”      

“There is also a sense of pride involved in not only how we host the tournament, and treat visiting schools, but also with how the kids perform, so. It is very important in terms of putting a good foot forward and having a good showing both in presentation and performance for the entire school district.”

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