Fight for league title in tennis heats up

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East County high school tennis is entering the second round of conference and the usual suspects have stepped out in front amidst the volley of competition to stake their claim on the Grossmont Hills league title. 

Steele Canyon, the defending champions, have lost only one conference match this season, an 11-7 drop to Helix, which Cougar head coach Jerry Sagawa said they do not plan on repeating in the second round. 

“Our goal is still to win league,” he said.

East County high school tennis is entering the second round of conference and the usual suspects have stepped out in front amidst the volley of competition to stake their claim on the Grossmont Hills league title. 

Steele Canyon, the defending champions, have lost only one conference match this season, an 11-7 drop to Helix, which Cougar head coach Jerry Sagawa said they do not plan on repeating in the second round. 

“Our goal is still to win league,” he said.

The Cougars won their match against Grossmont on Thursday, September 28, 2017. Grossmont assistant coach Wayne Eddington said the stiff competition presented by Steele Canyon and Helix is good for his players.

“This year Steele is clearly better than everyone else,” he said. “But it’s good competition. Our girls are competing hard. They’re out there, not throwing in the towel, and that’s the main thing.”

Grossmont senior Amy Linquist, a doubles player, said the fight has made the team stronger.

“It’s been tougher because we’ve been playing tougher teams, but I think it’s great to have a challenges,” she said. “You just have to go in thinking you’re going to win because if you doubt yourself than you might not play as well as you could.”

Although Grossmont boys tennis won league last year, the girls are struggling this season Eddington said it is a matter of age and experience, or lack thereof. Linquist, however, said the absence of any noticeable standouts on the team has been good for the girls. 

“We all play really well together and I think us being all in the same mentality and ability we can encourage each other and play to our best,” she said. “Tennis is a mental game, so if you’re in it and if your teammates are in it without you, it helps you to follow through and finish a match.”

Steele Canyon has a tight-knit team as well, according to Cougar senior Rebecca Rodriguez. But both she and Sagawa attribute the success and unity of the team to the impactful presence of parent volunteers.

“It’s amazing to see our program because we have a lot of parents that help and it adds a family base where we all know each other and we’re all family,” said Rodriguez. “It strengthens the dynamic.”

Sagawa said, traditionally, parents have been vital to the success of the program. This year, there are at least four regular parent-volunteer coaches who assist Steele Canyon.

“That’s what really keeps our program going,” he said. “And we’ve had many [parent volunteers] in the past. When you have 54 girls and only two coaches, there’s only so much time you can spend. These parents have tennis experience and we’re very appreciate of parent support.” 

Steele Canyon has a lot to prove as returning league champions, and Helix has a number of high-caliber athletes on their roster this season, making them a contender for the league title at the end of October. With a head-to-head against the Highlanders this week, the ball is in their court. 

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