New players, new era

Uriel Lopez

On a warm and humid Thursday, Bonita Vista High (BVH) girls’ varsity tennis team warms up as they prepare to play against Olympian High School (OHS) on Sept. 9. Although girls’ tennis is in its early stages, this game shows the progress made since the beginning of the season. Girls’ tennis coach Joe Sheffield was impressed at the results of the game.

“I have a lot of new girls [that] never played before, but they’re learning fast. At first, I wasn’t very comfortable [with] how we were going to play. But the more they’re improving, the more it’s giving light at the end of the tunnel,” Sheffield said.

Over the past few weeks, Sheffield tried to practice new techniques for the team to improve their performance and consistency, as most of the members are relatively new. The techniques are suited around the team’s strengths in order to put themselves in the best position possible to win points and have successful games and tournaments.

“Coach really wants to go to a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) tournament for doubles,” doubles player and sophomore Jamie Cheikka said. “We practice with everyone to play each position [and] we do [different] hitting drills to practice our hits.”

The new players have not played tennis as a team for a long time. Therefore, with the doubles tournament such as the CIF, the new practices and drills allow members to understand the team and learn more about how their opponents play.

“There are a lot of new girls and they’re learning a lot, especially myself. I feel like this game could be a close one. I don’t know if we’re gonna win or lose,” Cheikka said. 

Another technique to develop the team involves individual performances. Each person who is proficient in a skill set, practices and sets their game around their proficiency in one area, for example, surveying or volleying. The team puts effort into individual strategies for every match, as well as balancing the team based on the strengths and weaknesses of each player.

“Coach mainly likes working with each person individually. If they [a member] are comfortable as a front player, they [practice the skill and] play in the front. But, he sets us up to strategize,” Cheikka said. 

A strategy that an average player may not be able to accomplish without an adequate amount of practice is called “slicing the tennis ball”. “Slicing” allows a player to hit the ball in a way where they create a backspin which slows the point down because a slice cannot return the ball with a hard hit though to the bounce a slice has. The technique is difficult to implement in a game even for experienced players as mishits are common. 

“We’re a pretty quick team overall. I told the [players] that if you can, try to move the ball around and slice the ball because it looks like the other team was very plain,” Sheffield said.

Tennis is meant to be an activity that is enjoyed—playing the sport is an activity that stays with an individual their entire life. OHS’s Head Coach Daniel Lainez makes sure his team learns valuable lessons as well as builds a strong foundation, thus putting a little less emphasis on winning games. 

“Right now, it’s fun if we win some games, it’s good. But if we lose some games, it’s not a top priority. My goals, in general, are for the players to have fun and enjoy the game of tennis,” Lainez said. 

After practice of techniques and team building, BVH won the game against OHS. BVH’s singles won al,l except one of their sets, BVH won 8-1 sets against OHS with a combined score of 48-24. While BVH’s doubles won 5-4 sets with a combined score of 50-46. Sheffield was pleased with his team and besides that looks forward to the continuation of this season. 

“They’re [girls’ varsity tennis] improving big time. But they still have a ways to go to get to where we want to be,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield’s goal this year is growing as a team and using this season as an introduction to the team for some of his newer players. His team is focused on the present games, however, the thing that drives him and his team to play their best out there is to compete their rivalries against the two favorites in the district, Eastlake High School and Mater Dei Catholic High School.

“I would like to beat Eastlake and Mater Dei, that’s the biggest thing, that’s always a big rivalry,” Sheffield exclaimed.