Great expectations

Cynthia Mao

Girls varsity tennis ends league with second place finish, heads to CCS for eighth consecutive year

At a school where athletics aren’t top priority, it is hard to find a team that has been a consistent competitor.

However, girls varsity tennis has finished as one of the top schools in league, CCS, and NorCal multiple years in a row. They’ve made CCS seven years in a row, winning CCS four out of the past seven years and NorCal five.

Gene Fortino, who has coached the girls varsity tennis team for the past seven years, considers himself lucky. Several girls are highly ranked United States Tennis Association players, complete with self-determination and impeccable work ethic.

“It’s really just a committed team,” Fortino said. “We’ve got pretty high expectations.”

The girls have won nearly every game this season, losing only twice to Saratoga High School. The constant head-to-head with the Falcons’ tennis team, culminating in the 2009 NorCal championships, has led to more unfinished business between the SHS and MVHS tennis teams. Last year, the Matadors lost in the CCS finals to SHS, finishing in second place, but then defeated it in NorCal, taking first.

“[Winning in NorCal] was great,” said sophomore and fourth-ranked individual player, Jody Law. “We got a bigger trophy.”

SHS hasn’t always been big competition for MVHS; Archbishop Mitty also has one of the strongest girls tennis teams in the league. But this year, the rivalry between SHS and MVHS has amplified.

“On paper, people will see us as the underdogs,” said senior captain Sylvia Li, the number-one seed for individuals. “I think thatís just easier because there’s less pressure.”

The players aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed the rivalry between the SHS and MVHS girls varsity tennis teams—the  brewing competition has also caught Fortino’s attention.

“We’ve got a nice rivalry over the last seven or eight years where both teams are really strong and could go either way,” he said.

The truth is, this year isn’t going to be the cakewalk itís been in previous years. While MVHS is second place in the Division I De Anza League, Fortino admits that the top four schools in their division this year—SHS, MVHS, Mitty, and Menlo School—are all close. In the past, the girls tennis team at MVHS has often clearly been the strongest competitor. However, there’s no question that this year at CCS, the Matadors will face some solid teams that will put up a hard fight.

Despite this year’s challenges, Li trusts that the team will play to its full capabilities. They don’t want to settle for a second place finish in CCS again.

“Of course we want to win,” Li said, “and I think we definitely can.”

The girls finished the season with a strong 5-2 win against Henry M. Gunn High School on Oct. 28. They play their first CCS match this afternoon seeded second behind SHS. Their opponent is the winner of the Nov. 9th game between Mountain View High School and Carmel High School game.

“They knew this year it was going to be a dogfight,” Fortino said.