If the preseason is any indication, and you just never know, this may be the year the South Pasadena Tigers girls varsity tennis team goes all the way to a top spot in CIF.
To accomplish that feat, though, the team has to get past Temple City, something they haven’t been able to do in recent years.
“We’ve played five games so far,” Karina Ward, first-year head coach of So Pas High School girls varsity, said just before a recent match. “We are four and one and I’m pretty confident it’s going to five and one after today because the team we’re playing lost really bad to one of the teams we already beat this season so it’s probable five-one.” The Tigers did win handily, beating Alhambra 18-0.
Ward’s confidence comes from coaching for the past eight years as well as playing championship tennis herself during her college years. Also, she says her team this year has excellent players and the early returns have been good.
“I think the preseason (has been) very good,” she said. “We beat Poly(technic), which is a private school team with a lot of great players. That was probably our biggest win so far along with when we beat Glendale because Glendale won CIF last year for Division 4.”
Ward, who was born in Kazakhstan, although encouraged by the early victories thus far, acknowledged it’s going to be difficult to advance to CIF because her league has Div. 1 teams, La Canada and San Marino, and Div. 2, Temple City. So Pas is Div. 3.
“Basically, in order to go to CIF, we have to finish in the top three (in the Rio Hondo League),” she said. “Our chances for San Marino and La Canada are not very high just because of the depth of players they have on their team. We’re going to most likely cruise through Monrovia. They’re Division 3 and we are going to beat them pretty comfortably. The wild card is Temple City.”
The Rio Hondo League has five teams competing in girls varsity tennis this year. They are La Canada, San Marino, Monrovia, South Pasadena and Temple City. Blair also is in the league, but Blair is not fielding a girls varsity tennis team this year, according to Ward.
“If we are able to beat Temple City, then we will be the third team and when we go to CIF, the good news is we are going to go against schools that are Division 3,” Ward said.
However, beating Temple City is easier said than done, Ward acknowledged.
Tigers girls varsity tennis has not defeated Temple City for years, Ward said, and this year is not going to be easy.
“Temple City is the match of the season,” she said. The Tigers square off against the Rams at home Sept. 20 and again on Oct. 9 in an away match. Even though Ward has her sights set on Temple City, she said the Tigers still have to win the other matches as well.
“We are going to try our best to win every single match that we can,” Ward said. “The girls are doing a great job of that so far.”
One of the key players leading the charge for the Tigers is senior Shannon Huang. Huang is the Tigers No. 1 singles player. Each match features 9 single sets and 9 double sets.
The team is strong with the singles’ players and improving on the doubles’ players, which is comprised mostly of sophomores.
The younger players are learning to accept and excel in their roles as a doubles’ partner. Ward said that doubles play requires a broader understanding of the game and much more teamwork than singles. Whether it’s doubles or singles, she wants the team to play as a single unit.
“One thing I think is really important is to have teamwork and a sisterhood and to understand that many is stronger than one,” she said. “That just goes with supporting each other, being kind to each other and being there for one another and helping each other out. Whether they just see somebody left couple balls on the court and instead of just walking off, they help them pick up. Unity basically.”
The team decided to accomplish by engaging in activities outside of tennis, including going to the movies together, dinner and some ice cream.
“We call it team bonding,” she said. “The girls really want to do Laser Tag and I really like that because I want it to be a fun experience. Something they’ll always remember. I want this to be a safe place where they can come and have friendships that last a lifetime.”
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