LASA Raptors Tennis Wins District as New Team

LiLi Xiong, Staff Writer

After playing numerous matches this year, the LASA tennis team has come out on top as the district champions. Although their fall season has ended, the spring season is full of promise as players will take part in singles matches, doubles matches and mixed doubles matches. 

The fall season has brought the increasing potential for the team into sharp focus. Senior Crystal Zhou, the girls team captain, has high hopes for next season, seeing as the year has started out very well for the team. 

“My outlook on the season is very, very positive,” Zhou said. “I feel like we could have gotten a lot farther than we did, but I think we did alright. We did really good, better than any other year.” 

Although sophomore and varsity tennis player Rishi Rajesh believes that the team could have done better this season, he believes that with more preparation, the team can do better. He also feels like some teams that they played at the district tournament were better than they were expecting.

“I think that we did well for our first season,” Rajesh said. “I feel like we could’ve done a little bit better. However, looking back, there were some other pretty good teams that we didn’t know about. We didn’t expect to lose, but next year we should be able to go further.”

According to coach Vincent Vizcaino, challenging competitions like this season’s are always a highlight of his experience coaching tennis, which also involves travelling to different cities as a team. Vizcaino believes that it’s beneficial for the team to face difficult opponents.

“I like the competition and getting to go out and play other schools,” Vizcaino said. “I like to see how our kids respond to adversity and play in difficult matches. It’s great to see how we measure up to other people and how we respond.”

Vizcaino believes that the team did better this year than other years because of an increased variety in the skill levels of players. A lot of LASA tennis players play tennis outside of school as well, allowing them to get extra practice and improve their skills.

 “A lot of the players at LASA have previous experience, so a lot of them come in already playing pretty good tennis,” Vizcaino said. “Since I first saw the kids this season in August, especially the girls, I would say they improved a lot.”

Zhou also emphasized the importance of an addition of more players to the team’s roster as a factor of their success. A surge of freshmen on the team has been beneficial, as some of them have already started this season playing on the varsity team.

“This year, we have twice that amount of good super-champ players than last year, which definitely helped,” Zhou said.

Although the number of players on the team has increased overall, the number of players attending team practices has been inconsistent due to COVID-19 and overlap with club practices. Vizcaino feels that the inconsistency practice turnout is not ideal, but is relieved that players have been practicing on their own.

“We didn’t always have our best players for one reason or another,” Vizcaino said. “The fact that most of the kids aren’t coming to school, the fact that most of them are not on campus hurts us as far as training and being together as a team. Some of our kids live far away from campus so it’s difficult for them to commute to come to practice on a consistent basis. Building that cohesion that we need was definitely not as good as I wanted it to have been.”

Rajesh attends daily tennis club practices instead of school practices, but has gone to one team practice so far. School tennis practices don’t usually involve anything other than playing matches and working on skills.

“During practice, we play a lot of the time; we actually hit balls,” Rajesh said. “We do some fitness, but for the most part, we actively play tennis.”

Scrimmages are practice matches played against other teams in order to prepare for tournaments. Zhou believes that scrimmages are important to the team’s performance in matches as they help players get game experience.

“Overall, tennis has been really good compared to previous years,” Zhou said. “And we’ve got more scheduled scrimmages instead of just districts which is really, really good.”

According to Rajesh, COVID-19 has not impacted the tennis team drastically. Some new changes mandate that players are required to wear masks while playing and are expected to maintain social distance during practices.

“Tennis, out of all the other sports, isn’t as affected by COVID-19 since it’s not a contact sport, and you can play it while social distancing,” Rajesh said. “We have to do an online check-in and answer some questions about if we’re experiencing symptoms, but other than that, there’s not much difference.”

As for next season, player recruitment is one of the team’s major goals. Rajesh believes that adding players to the team will help them go further next year.

“For next season, we’re hoping to get more freshmen to join the team,” Rajesh said. “As for performance, we want to go to the region finals, so that would be two more wins than we got this season. We think that’s possible, but we’re going to have to add some people to the team.”

Based on the team’s performance in the fall season, Vizcaino feels they have a good chance of doing well next season. He hopes that the players will continue to improve and that some players will be able to play in regional tournaments in the spring.

“Especially come spring, I think we have a very good chance at getting a lot of our players to either win the district or finish second, which qualifies them for the regional tournament,” Vizcaino said. “Based on their ability, I’m going to put them in the best place where they can excel and hopefully we can do well at regionals and maybe get a few of the kids to go play at state.”