With only one player who consistently plays tournaments and is ranked in her age group, San Marino varsity girls’ tennis coach Melwin Pereira was unsure if his team could compete with the Rio Hondo League this season.
“Just look at La Cañada,” Pereira said. “They have two freshmen who are four stars. You can’t compare this season. I don’t have those players. My freshmen don’t play in tournaments and are unranked.”
The team’s chemistry and resiliency made up for its lack of experience last Thursday as San Marino defeated Rio Hondo League rival La Cañada on the road, 11-7.
It was the best start to league Pereira could have hoped for.
“I’m so happy for them,” he said. “We had a good win, one I didn’t expect. I felt we still were not ready but I challenged the girls. I expected it to be closer, but the result shows that our girls believe in what we are doing.”
The Titans carried that confidence into the weekend and won the First Serve Tennis Tournament, where everyone but star player Anessa Lee competed. Lee was unable to participate in the tourney because of her high ranking.
San Marino prevailed without its No. 1 singles player and went undefeated in the competition, defeating opponents from all over Southern California in every division. Pereira had never participated in the tournament but felt it was right for this group.
“I took part in the tournament because you cannot play players ranked in the top 100,” Pereira said. “We basically beat our opponents badly except for one. I’m so glad the girls didn’t drop to the level of their competition. They kept on playing hard, and this will only boost their confidence going forward. I’m so proud of them.”
The win over the Spartans and the tournament title also gave Pereira confidence in his own team, believing the squad can accomplish its goal of winning its 10th consecutive Rio Hondo League crown.
“What makes me excited for this group is that they are on the same page,” Pereira said. “We have depth, but we need every girl to contribute. Even though Anessa is my best player, we need girls to help and do their jobs. If they make a mistake, then we’re out. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and the girls are buying into that mentality.”
The Titans continued league play against rival South Pasadena on Tuesday and will travel to Monrovia on Tuesday, Oct. 2, for another contest at 3:30 p.m.