Junior doubles player Melinda Lem stretches to swat a return to her opponent in a match against the Wallenberg Bulldogs on Oct. 20. Photos by Will Scharffenberger View more photos from this gallery >
The sound of flying balls and whizzing rackets echoes from the football field to the T’s as the Cardinals liven up the tennis courts.
With an undefeated AAA league record and a 9-3 overall record, the girls’ tennis team has been shutting down competition.
On Oct. 13, the Cardinals’ defeated the Wallenberg Bulldogs in a 6-1 win. The three Cardinals doubles teams easily put the Bulldogs to rest, while the singles faced somewhat tougher competition but came out on top. The match was the team’s sixth and final win in this AAA season, in which the undefeated Cardinals have proven themselves a difficult team to beat through “strong, consistent ground strokes and hitting,” according to junior doubles player Erica Wong.
Despite their first place standing, the girls’ success has not come without its challenges. The team has had to adjust to a new head coach Bryan Lee, who replaced former coach Jimmy Rosenheim. Lee has brought a fresh perspective and a new coaching style, as well as a can-do attitude to the team. “Jimmy was impulsive, loud and fun and Bryan can be more thoughtful and quiet,” junior doubles player Melinda Lem said. “He helps us improve by carefully analyzing our strokes and game.”
Lee is enjoying his first year coaching Cardinals’ tennis. “The Lowell girls’ tennis team is more enthusiastic, hard working and has a greater ability and desire to learn than any other groups that I’ve worked with,” Lee said.
Lee is helping the girls prepare for the All-City Championships through one-on-one coaching during practices, which the girls have found helpful. “Each doubles partner and singles are working with the coach alone, to work on technique and improve the weak shots,” said freshman player Catherine Le. Lee explained that he has stressed “footwork, preparation and conditioning” in practices to help the team improve and overcome losses such as their non-league matches against Marin Academy, Burlingame High and Tamalpais High.
Despite these few earlier losses, the girls have quickly improved. As individuals, each teammate has begun to win more consistently. The Cardinals have even won multiple matches without the help of their top two seeds Karen Etin and Nina Liu, two of the senior co-captains, on days that Lee decided to mix up the lineup. “Some of the players have made some big changes and are hitting much better as a result,” Lee said. The girls have also had to step up their game in the absence of several of last season’s prominent seniors, including former captains Sally Ness and Amy Yee. “We lost a lot of key players last year, but we’ve been able to overcome that through hard work,” Wong said.
This season, team unity has become an important part of the Cardinals’ game. “We stay out there until everyone’s finished,” Wong said. According to Lee, the third senior co-captain Rahwa Gebreslasse and sophomore singles player Nancy Hong have shown exceptional sportsmanship and leadership to their fellow teammates. Lee describes them as “ideal team players who passionately support teammates by giving high fives and encouragement in practices and matches.”
Come watch the Cardinals today at 3:30 p.m. in Golden Gate Park as they compete in the All-City Finals.
This article first appeared in the Nov. 5, 2010 issue of The Lowell.