GIRLS TENNIS PREVIEW: Lady Lancers aim to repeat as Freeway League champs while making another run for a CIF title

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Summer Sueki

Co-captain senior Veronica Diaz, a top returning player on the girls tennis team this season, gets ready to hit a forehand at a practice on Sept. 6 at Sunny Hills.

Coach: Chris Ghareebo (head coach)

Top Returning Players: Daniela Borruel (10), Veronica Diaz (12), Crystal Kim (12), Lauren Sung (11)

Top Newcomers: Madison Pyo (9), Amy Roh (10)

Last Season: The Lady Lancers finished undefeated (6-0; 13-1 overall record) in the Freeway League, defeating rival Troy and clinching the top spot for the first time in over 20 years. The team had a long CIF run but lost to Tesoro High School, 14-4, in the final CIF Southern Section Division 3 match.

“[Making it into CIF finals] was amazing; it was the best experience as a high school coach I’ve ever had,” Ghareebo said. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t win it, but it was much more than just win or losses, and we all had a great time.”

Outlook: With 11 seniors that graduated last year and three returners, the Lady Lancers expect to maintain their level of play from the previous season.

“We worked a lot on our mental game last year, which paid a lot of dividends in big moments against Troy and helped us win a lot of close matches in CIF,” Ghareebo said. “[It was] because we were tough and mentally ready for the grind of the match, so it might be the same again this year, just being mentally ready for challenges.”

With the unprecedented successes the team achieved last year, the coach said he wants to implement similar strategies this season and continue easing mental pressure during games.

“It’s the finals of CIF, [so] it’s going to be nerve-racking, but maybe we could have a more pressure kind of situation for us,” he said. “If they can ever replicate what a final will feel like, trying to do things every day that simulates some sort of pressure.”

Co-captain senior Crystal Kim said she wants to emphasize team bonding throughout the season and looks to improve upon challenges the team faced during pre-season.

“I want our team to understand that losing is not something to be ashamed about,” Kim said. “I think we just need to be more pumped up than our opponents.”

Sophomore Daniela Borruel, a top player who won first place in CIF Division 3 girls individual tennis championship last year, said she also stressed the importance of teamwork. Borruel herself is ranked 11th in the Southern Section and 67th in the national rank; she also won the $120 first prize check in the International Tennis Federation Women’s World Tennis Tour over the summer after getting a wildcard.

“One of my expectations for this season is to have a bonded and united team, especially because of how many newcomers we have this year,” she said. “My goal is to have them feel welcomed and feel supported by their teammates.”

The Lady Lancers kicked off Freeway League play by winning 10-8 in a home match against Fullerton Union High School on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The team’s next match will be another home match on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m. against Buena Park.