The talent on the girls’ tennis team was clear from the start. According to coach Wilston Poon, the team’s potential to go far in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championships was already obvious in the first few days of training. But, it was the team’s motivation, sophomore player Julia Gordon said, that pushed them towards winning an Ocean league championship with an undefeated record.
“Our success can certainly be attributed to our hard work and determination,” Gordon said. “We are always willing to improve upon our weaknesses and become a better team.”
According to co-captain Rebecca Sherouse, the team has matched its skill levels with its effort, as members constantly push each other to be stronger players.
“We spend a lot of hours on the court,” Sherouse said. “We are driven to win a championship, and we know what it takes.”
Their hard work paid off in the form of an 8-0 league record that has brought them pride, excitement, and even a bit of nervousness.
“Being a captain on such a successful team is a blast, but it also puts on a lot of pressure,” Sherouse said. “[Co-captain Carly Brown] and I can never let the team down, and we as a team do not want to let down our school and community.”
Though the Samo girls tennis team frequently wins league, the team has not won a team CIF championship since the 1960s. This adds to the pressure, especially since the team is so close to earning that title this year.
“As a captain and a senior, it would be amazing to bring the trophy back to Samo,” Sherouse said.
According to Gordon, the captains have done everything they can to reach that goal.
“Brown and Sherouse are always motivating us and helping us,” Gordon said. “They get the team pumped up and ready for each and every match, no matter the circumstances.”
Natural talent plus hard work have created a team capable of winning league and, as Sherouse believes, capable of claiming the CIF championship ring.
“Samo girls’ tennis teams often have many strong singles players,” Sherouse said. “But, this year, we also have three similarly strong doubles teams, which makes us extremely lucky.”
According to junior Arielle Kronovet, this doubles talent advantage is very rare.
“Having doubles teams that are as strong, if not stronger than the singles players, pushes us past a lot of other one-sided teams,” Kronovet said. “Even when we are struggling in our singles category, we can count on our doubles players to pull through for the team.”
The tennis team also has a top singles player in sophomore Christine Maddox, who won the singles division of CIF last year and is currently ranked 25th in the state and 30th in the Southwest region, according to www.tennisrecruiting.net.
“Maddox is always boosting us forward; she is an integral part of the successful team we are, and she consistently gives us an advantage,” Gordon said.
Poon also recognizes the skill Maddox brings to the table, and finds her to be a one-of-a-kind player.
“Maddox’s high rankings show only half of the story,” Poon said. “ Though being ranked so high in one of the most competitive athletic states says a lot, her initial gift continues to increase at a rapid rate because she is dedicated to the sport and leaves it all on the court.”
The Samo girls carry these advantages with them as they head into CIF, with the same drive to win that they have had throughout the entire season.
“Our team showed promise at the beginning, and has worked very hard to come to where they are,” Poon said. “With their combination of diligence and skill, I don’t see any team stopping us from our goal: a CIF championship.”
The players have equal confidence in themselves, and they have always known what it takes. So far, singles players have already started their CIF run successfully; Gordon and Maddox are the two finalists for the Ocean league singles championship, and both will be moving on to the CIF regional tournament. In addition, two of the doubles teams have proceeded to the Ocean league finals.
Their success adds to the players’ motivation, who know their teammates have already proved to be big contenders.
“I’m just really excited,” Sherouse said. “If we play smart and focus in on what we want to achieve, this team can definitely go further than it ever has before.”