Coming off a winless schedule last season, tennis has turned around and improved dramatically.
With a combined five wins in the previous three years, the team has already surpassed that in 2018.
Tennis has a 7-4 overall record, 6-2 in conference.
Tuesday’s game solidified the second seed in the Western State Conference with a 7-2 win.
Long Dao was assistant coach of the program since 2010, before he took over as head coach in 2015.
Dao said he has scouted years for his current team, working to recruit local players from Los Angeles to help develop a bond between the teammates, creating a more solid team.
“Everyone’s local. A lot of these players know each other and are all friends prior to even joining the team,” Dao said. “I think I and the players around here take pride in the fact that all the players on this team are essentially locals.”
The team has eight players on the roster, which is the minimum number of players for a team.
Dao said that the last time tennis was in the Western State Conference Tournament was two years ago. During that season, the team did not win any dual matches.
When playing in tournament, schools are allowed to enter eight single players and four double teams.
“Tennis is a little different in that the WSC becomes an individual tournament as opposed to a team event where each player is playing in an effort to advance to the Ojai Tournament, the “state” tournament,” Dao said.
Siraj Dail, player, said he can see a difference between this season and the last.
“It’s a new team. We have fresh players that are a lot better then what we had last season, so the level of the team is a lot higher than it was,” Dail said.
Dail said that he keeps himself motivated by remembering what his coach told him to do.
“I usually get pissed off when I’m playing bad, so my coach tells me ‘You gotta focus on the team and not yourself.’ So that kind of helps,” Dail said.
Rafeal Fogo’schensul, freshman, said he struggles at times with how to deal with the weight of the team on his shoulders.
“I don’t let the pressure get to my head. I like to build up the confidence so at the end of the match, when it’s all done, I’ve won for the team instead of myself,” Fogo’schensul said.
Dao said when he became head coach, he had to get his footing. He had to find ways to recruit strong athletes, and the Los Angeles College Promise helped bring in some of his players. The program gives incoming Los Angeles Unified School District high school graduates a free year of college.
”It took time for players to graduate and come, especially with the college promise program. It’s essentially a free scholarship. So it makes us more competitive with other offers they might get,” Dao said.
Dao said that at the junior college level players are only allowed to participate on in a sport for a short period of time, which limits player growth and team depth.
“It’s difficult to build and maintain a successful team because they are here and they are only allowed to play for two years so players just cycle in and out,” Dao said.
Dao said he hopes the strong and local team he built will overcome the challenges they are faced with and will continue to succeed in this league.
“To build a team locally is way more difficult than to recruit internationally, but it’s definitely worth it,” Dao said.