The San Marino High School varsity girls’ tennis program is usually known for what it has accomplished in the postseason. The Titans have captured 12 CIF Southern Section Championships and numerous Rio Hondo League titles in the school’s history.
Two matches into the season, the Titans are already making headlines and being recognized by CIF by defeating Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates, 11-7, at home last week. The Panthers have won 15 CIF titles since 1991.
“I’m very happy for the seniors,” said SMHS head coach Melwin Pereira, who doesn’t recall a victory over Peninsula with the girls’ team. “It’s about improving, and they definitely are.”
The victory over a prestigious program also came with a negative, as CIF ranked San Marino as the No. 4 team in Division 1. The top six teams in Division 1 are placed in the Open Division playoffs.
“Peninsula didn’t have its top player and they are a little better than us,” Pereira said. “We are not an Open Division team. This will be a good confidence booster for our players, especially the freshmen.”
The result also shows the potential of this San Marino squad. The balanced group, which includes two freshmen, has an experienced core that has been working with Pereira for at least two years. The team has No. 1 singles standout and Vanderbilt-bound Anessa Lee back this year. Her teammates may not be ranked as high but Pereira knows how to maximize his talent. He managed to guide San Marino to a Rio Hondo League title last fall despite having a combined Universal Tennis Rating of 26. La Cañada, which was second in league and won the CIF-SS Division 2 crown, had a stellar rating of 55.
“I’m just proud of my girls and what they have been able to do the past two years,” Pereira said. “These girls just keep getting better, and it’s been fun teaching them.”
Freshmen Selena Wu and Nathalie Genyk may be competing for singles positions, leaving seasoned veterans such as Katie Kirkendall, Grace Carter, Annie Moller and Rakel Ang to take over doubles. They understand to attack the net and have one player in charge of volleying the ball.
“That’s how we do it,” Pereira said. “We have a system based on that and need two people who respect each other and play for one another. It’s going to be tough for us to win, but that’s how we’re going to do it. If we can play together and not make mistakes, then we can be good.”
San Marino (1-1 overall record) will travel to Arcadia for a big nonleague match on Monday, Sept. 23, at 3:30 p.m. The squad opens Rio Hondo League play at Temple City on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 3:30 p.m.