South Pasadena varsity girls tennis coach Karina Ward had set her team’s sights on the Temple City match. They had to win that match if they were to make a strong move toward a chance at CIF postseason play. Something that hadn’t been done, Ward speculates, in at least three years perhaps longer.
That first crucial test came a-week-ago Thursday at home. And in the beginning of the sets – they play 18 sets, nine singles and nine doubles – it didn’t look all that good for the home team. They were tied and playing almost against themselves.
“We started weak,” Ward said. “But halfway through we began to pull away.”
The Tiger girls would win a singles’ set but then drop a doubles’ set. They would win another singles’ set but, again, drop another doubles.
Nip-and-tuck for sure. But then, as the singles began to roll over into the victory column, it became clear that it was going to be up to the doubles’ side to hold up at least some wins to put the Tigers over the top. In the end, the singles swept the match, 9-0, and the doubles’ teams found a way to win four sets. The Tigers finished the nearly four-hour match the victors at 13-5.
“I think they were nervous in the beginning,” Ward said. “I made it clear how important this was and maybe some of that nervousness falls on me.”
Captain Shannon Huang was so nervous she asked to move down a notch to play their No. 2 singles player. Ward denied the request, telling her star player that she was No. 1 and would play that way. Huang went on to sweep her three sets.
Temple City, in fact, moved their top two singles’ players into a doubles’ team to try and capitalize on the Tigers doubles’ vulnerability.
“It was almost like they conceded we were going to beat them in singles and so went after is on doubles,” Ward said. “I was told that was a compliment.”
Ward said the girls had worked “very hard” in practice for this match, knowing full-well that if they won, they would put a huge step forward toward CIF.
“I’m just so proud of the girls,” Ward said. “They worked really hard at practice the Sunday before the match and for two-and-a-half hours Tuesday. This is a really big win for us.”
The Tigers need to beat Temple City again at Temple City to ensure a place in CIF but they are now half-way to that goal.