Titans Must Double Up This Season to Succeed

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Photo by Oscar Areliz / OUTLOOK
The San Marino High School varsity girls’ tennis team opened the season with a 10-8 victory over visiting Valencia on Monday. The local squad includes includes Dahyls Ang, Hannah Ang, Elisabeth Carter, Elizabeth Chang, Kayla Chen, Joanne Chien, Ariana Harvey, Katie Kirkendall, Anessa Lee, Sophia Lee, Sabrina Lieu, Jackie Lu, Alyssa Luff, Caitlin Nguyen and Erina Widjaja.

With nine consecutive Rio Hondo League championships, the San Marino High School varsity girls’ tennis program is among the best in the entire CIF Southern Section.
The Titans have produced some of the best singles players in the area in that time, but that won’t be the narrative this year. Head coach Melwin Pereira and his squad began the season in unfamiliar territory.
“The doubles is key this season, which is a complete 180 degrees from before,” Pereira said. “Playing together and how I mix up doubles will be big for us.”
Defending individual league champion Anessa Lee is the clear No. 1 singles player for San Marino, and Katie Kirkendall and Libby Chang will fill out the remaining singles spots. Pereira hopes Kirkendall and Chang continue to improve to get more points from singles matches.
“Anessa will do her thing, but it’s going to be tougher on our No. 2 and 3 singles,” Pereira said. “There are a lot of good ranked players out there, and they don’t have much experience.”
Pereira opted to start the season by keeping his two best doubles players, seniors Sophia Lee and Sabrina Lieu, together against Valencia. He didn’t want to split the talent in doubles and opted to keep one dominant duo. The move worked in the season opener as they won three matches and lifted the Titans over Valencia in a 10-8 victory on Monday.
“I’m so happy I didn’t split them,” said Pereira, who had his son Bryce help coach the team. “I thought about splitting them up to even out the strength, but it’s important to keep one very strong doubles.”
Other duos include Caitlin Nguyen/Dahyls Ang and Kayla Chen/Hannah Ang. The Ang sisters wished to play together, but Pereira felt their styles were too similar. He plans to work with the doubles players when he returns to the court and evaluates his squad. Pereira has missed the past five weeks because of a knee-replacement surgery. His son and former Titan, Bryce, has led the practices and guided the team in his father’s absence.
“Bryce told me that the girls have been doing well in practice and working hard,” Pereira said. “He did a great job of talking to the players during the match. I have to actually be there to determine the doubles combinations. Bryce and I agreed on the combinations for the match against Valencia, but I need to go to practice to see how they are doing.”
The Titans remain in the top division of the CIF Southern Section and will face even tougher teams this year, including Peninsula High of Rolling Hills Estates. He expects Rio Hondo League rivals Temple City and La Cañada to show improvement this season and compete for the crown.
“Every year is different,” Pereira said. “We lose players, other schools gain players. It goes back and forth. Our team isn’t getting stronger every year, so we have to work very hard so we can win the league again.”
Pereira says this group will have to also work together to recapture the league championship and make a run in the postseason.
“That’s that No. 1 thing for us,” he said. “I want them to play as a team. They have been around me, and they know the system we are implementing. Our doubles players need to trust each other. I just want everyone to play together and do things the right way. As long as they stay positive and work hard, I’ll be happy, win or lose. Winning will come if they just follow the system and play positively without pointing any fingers. This is a veteran group. I think if they just do that, we can go out and battle.”
San Marino will have time to work on its doubles chemistry before hosting Murrieta Valley High in a nonleague match on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

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