Are you an alumni of the Serra Tennis team? If you wish to share a fun tennis memory, or update us on what you have been up to since playing tennis at SHS, email us at [email protected] We will post alumni updates here, so check back to see what your fellow Conquistador tennis teammates have to share about their experience playing tennis for Serra High School!
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Alumni Kalvin Lam (Class of 2016):
Coming into Serra High School, I knew for sure that I wanted to play on the tennis team. And so, going to winter workouts and eventually making the team was a very joyful moment in my high school years. Although, I didn't play for the team during my sophomore year, the other three years of tennis were fun and memorable. However, there's one thing I would like to share to future team members that stood out to me throughout my tennis years, especially my senior year. I was mainly a sub for the team. Although I knew my tennis skills weren't the best and there were plenty of great players on the team that helped with countless victories, as a sub, you can't help but feel a little down sometimes. There were times where I thought to myself, "Why did I even join the team if I don't get to play?" And I'm sure that some of you, who are current members of the team, might feel the same way.
However, I want to emphasize that being a sub should not get you down. From my time on the Serra Tennis team, there was one important thing that Coach Dabney really expressed that I will remember forever: Our tennis team is a family! Being a part of the team does not only mean you are constantly playing matches and sets. Being a part of the team also means that you support your teammates whenever you are not playing. For the players on the court, it can be tough and even stressful when there's that last set that will decide the victory, or when they are matched up against a player they know is more experienced. Yet, when you are cheering on your teammates as a sub, you are letting the players know that they are not alone - that they have teammates who support them. And honestly, it's the small things like this that often light the motivation inside your teammates who are playing and help them through the match - win or lose.
This is the most important thing I learned from my time on the Serra Tennis team. I did not let the fact that I was a sub bring me down. Instead, I did all I could to support my teammates. I used the fact that I was a sub to train harder and practice more to improve my skills so I could have more chances to play. Whenever Coach asked if I wanted to play, I took every opportunity I could. One memory of such a time where I got the opportunity to play was when I was playing doubles with Nathan Tran as my partner and we were up against the #1 doubles team from Mira Mesa in 2016. Our match was the last one for the day and it came down to an intense tie-breaker. The match was stressful. I could feel the tension rising. I knew that winning this match was going to be vital to the overall result against Mira Mesa. Although I had Nathan there with me, I couldn't help but feel isolated. Yet, I remember during this tie-breaker, right before I served, I saw the whole Serra team watching our match and cheering us on. It was the greatest feeling ever, to see my teammates having my back and I suddenly felt calmer. Although the match ended in a loss, I still remember the cheers and applause from not only the team, but from the parent audience as well.
So again, becoming a starting player for the team and playing lots of matches might seem like the ultimate goal (and it should be), remember, that being on the sidelines is important too. You can make a difference. When one person supports another, that is when both people can strive to do their best and move forward. Thank you for the great experience, Serra Tennis Team!
Alumni Bryan Chau (Class of 2016):
As a player who was a member of the Serra Tennis family for three years, I want to share two memories that affected myself as an individual. When I was in my first year of high school, I heard about the tennis team and was only slightly interested in it - I didn't feel the strive to play tennis at the time. However, I ended up joining the pre-season practice sessions during winter, and that triggered a small flare of commitment that would grow immensely in the future. As a freshman, I was nervous and repressed when playing with other people; I had barely any knowledge of tennis and played with all I had at the time. What made me want to join the team were the people supporting and encouraging me, as a teammate and as a friend. The series of pre-season practices, and the individuals that heartened my hesitant spirit, was what got me into playing tennis seriously.
Being a freshman at the time, I was a horrible, witless joker; but I don't regret any of the memories I've created from that base. When the team got together on the first day of practice and everyone introduced themselves by stating their names, I wanted to be funny and declared my name as "Jake." Yeah, I instantly (did not) regret saying that that day, as Coach Dabs and some others have been calling me "Jake" for three years ~ but I guess it was pretty rad. Besides being called a fake name, there are other countless memories that I cherish to this day. From shooting tennis balls as mini-basketballs into tennis carts in sophomore year, to beating #1 double teams in my senior year, the possibility of have a splendid tennis experience at Serra is more than for sure! As an alumnus of the Serra Tennis team, I can guarantee that you will have a grand adventure if you're new to the family. Thanks everyone, for enduring my foolhardy personality and letting me be a part of the family!
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Alumni Brandon Tran (Class of 2015):
Going into my freshman year of high school I was timid and intimidated by all of the seniors. I made the bold move to join the tennis team because of my love for the sport and I was afraid that I wouldn?t make the cut. At tryouts I automatically felt supported by all the upperclassmen. With each day spent at tennis practice and at games, not only did I grow in my tennis skills but I felt a bond grow towards the individuals on the team. From those lunches playing "Mafia", those In-N-Out dinners, and those nights chilling in a Jacuzzi, I genuinely felt like a camaraderie grew into a brotherhood. When I was an underclassman, I aspired to be like those skilled seniors but once I became a senior myself, I felt a responsibility to be a role model. I hope that I have impacted the lives of the individuals of those that shared the Serra tennis experience with me. As an alumni, I believe that those who are still at Serra and are currently active members of the team should strive to be role models for the younger generation. The motto of Serra tennis is to be classy and that principle, I hope, holds true to everybody. I?m so proud of where Serra tennis has grown to. During my time at Serra, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that won the Eastern League Champions title and being able to play individual CIFs and make it to the second round in singles. I hope the trend of success continues in the future and I can see that Serra tennis breeds amazing individuals based on my time on the team. I would lastly like to recall one of the most memorable days with the team. For a team bonding day, we all went to Colton?s house to hangout ? this included pizza, smash, ping pong, murder (the game), and jumping into the Jacuzzi. The day was a day to remember because that was the day we became more than a team?we became a family. As I write this statement, I feel nostalgia for my time spent on the team. To all of those who are currently active members of the team, I wish you all good luck in the season and I want you all to kill it on the courts! Thank you for letting me be a member of this family.
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Alumni Alexis Olea (Class of 2015):
I never really believed in myself & my own talents the way I felt that this team believed in me. I was never a very confident person throughout my first year on the team. I made it very evident that I would not be able to reach my optimal performance if my emotions were not in balance. It seemed that I would not be able to play alone in singles since I was too self-critical to keep myself going. I would get frustrated & start breaking down as I missed shots that I could have easily made. I did, however, have a decent set of skills that gave me an advantage in doubles play. That's when I was placed with my first year partner: Mentor Bajrami, a senior at the time. The two of us had trouble at first, since my lack of experience & self-belief put a large weight on our performance. However, Mentor was excellent at keeping me calm & assured, every match we played. The entire tennis team & I were emotionally crushed when he had to take a leave of absence from tennis due to being diagnosed with Epilepsy. The team wore purple ribbons to raise awareness of Epilepsy the following match. Even though Mentor was not able to back me up during the matches, I had enough of a resolve to continue with a different partner. My new partner & I had to make new strategies that matched our weaknesses & strengths.
I?d like to think that I became a more tactical player as a result of that during my second & third year despite being quick to showing emotion. It really was one of my greatest faults, but it was mostly impulsive. I had a hard time keeping myself in check during the rush of matches. I still managed to sweep in most matches, though my partner would have to deal with me being very inaccurate seven times out of ten.
As a freshman at the time, Alex Weishan, my most recent partner, knows most about this inaccuracy. He knew how frustrated I would get when I would miss shot after shot & wasn't able to execute any plans we had, because I would miss the first shot. The beginning was tough with him since there was a lot of communication we had to do to be able to play efficiently. As the more experienced partner with the high school tennis dynamic, I felt that I had to step up my game a lot more in order to fit into the position we were given. However, once we had our strategy & our communication down, we were a force to be reckoned with! Alex was well-rounded & had a lot of experience in playing tennis before even joining the team, while I was on the verge of perfecting serves that allowed us to play a very offensive strategy right from the start. His net play & calculating mind, & my ability to confuse opponents with a side spin serve to break their defense with a powerful serve allowed us some free points and (if I may brag a little more than I already have) marvelous set-ups for Alex to place & win the point! There were ups & downs that year, but playing with Alex was really fun, & it even helped me build a little more confidence.
My favorite memory of all was the Gatorade Classic with Kim-chi Nguyen. We practiced as much as we could before tournament day. I remember that we didn't think we would get very far in the tournament. We had a lot of fun playing against everyone, but it turned out we actually DID get fairly far into the tournament. We made the Finals against Brandon Tran & Cassidy Ferrell & were defeated quite easily, but we didn't go down without a fight! We both tried our hardest against their great defense & offense, but our strategy of using my "bullet-like" serve's momentum, to break them apart from each other, was not effective since they were both good at recovering. However, knowing that we achieved that much despite thinking we couldn't, helped me rise up from my usual feelings of inadequacy & insecurity.
I may have not reached the top, but I learned something really valuable from the Gatorade Classic and everything I went through with the team and our supporters: self-confidence.My experience with the team was very positive. Things did go wrong at times & there were times when we stumbled & crashed, BUT there were also times when we laughed, grew stronger, & bonded. I may still be a little shy & nervous at times, but I feel that it is safe to say that I have grown a lot from the moment I joined the team to the moment I left. I enjoyed my time with everyone there: I have so many memories that fill me with such joy & nostalgia that if I went ahead & described every single one of them, my alumni memory section would occupy half of this website's data storage! So because I never was able to properly say goodbye to everyone the way I would have liked to: I want to thank you all for believing in me when I did not. I might have not been the best player, or the best person to be around, but I am thankful for the fact that you all put up with me & my shenanigans & took me in as a fellow teammate.
Alumni Mentor Bajrami (Class of 2012):
I don't exactly remember the year it was when I couldn't play for the first set of matches on the Serra Tennis team due to my grades. Even though I wasn't roster-active, I still went to every match to support our team. Soon, I began doing better in my classes and I finally had the chance to play. We won more matches because the other schools did not see me coming, due to my absence the first half of the season. I know this because I saw one of the coaches from a different school and he told me that's how he remembered me . There are way too many good memories during my time playing Serra Tennis, that I find it hard to remember all of them. I do remember two good ones that stand out. The 1st one is when I ate two 4×4's from an In-n-Out team bonding and then tried to play more tennis; this was a bad idea because I was so full. The 2nd memory for me is when I was a senior and was partnered up in doubles with Alexis Olea, who at that time was a freshman. We were in a long rally and one of our opponents hit a good shot wide but it wasn't good enough because I ran for it and I hit the ball around the post and made it into their doubles alley. I felt like Roger Federer after hitting that shot; it was really cool! We ended up winning the match. Playing for the team was a great experience and I enjoyed every day of it.
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Alumni Shayn Lozano (Class of 2014):
It all started at Souplantation (as all great things do). As a committed runner, having spent the past three years of my life succeeding on the track, I was a bit skeptical as some friends and family on the tennis team tried to persuade me to tryout for the tennis team. Tryouts had already passed, I hadn?t played tennis for several years, and I was already committed to a different sport, but they insisted I tryout nonetheless. Finally, an offer no one could refuse was made: tryout for tennis and get In-N-Out burger. Heck, I?d do just about anything for free food, let alone In-N-Out, so I said why not and agreed to tryout knowing I?d suck and get cut anyway.
Little did I know my humble beginnings would blossom into one of the most successful aspects of my high school career. I started playing doubles with one of the captains, an encouraging and passionate player who taught me how to be a leader and take charge of not only my game but also the game of those around me. I also remember the magical match against Point Loma, where the match came down to the last doubles match. The euphoria of winning that match was seldom reached for the rest of my high school career, and I look back on it as the beginning of a legitimate commitment to a sport I would work to refine over the next four years of my life.
The next three years of my tennis life were consumed by one man: Cameron Wilkinson. After changing partners sophomore year, I was matched with a peer who showed great promise and we began a long journey of victories and defeats together. One of my favorite memories with Cameron is also one of my worst: Making our way to CIF sophomore year. After playing our hearts out and losing in a close match, Cam and I were in the backdraw fighting to make it to CIF. Our next match was probably the single worst match I ever played (which is definitely saying something). I couldn?t hit anything to save my life, and I was too heavy for Cam to carry. We were slaughtered the first set 0-6 and were down 0-5 the next set. I just wanted to throw my racket and yell the entire match, but Cam kept pulling me aside and telling me that we needed to take it one point at a time. In the moment of certain defeat, as we were changing sides down 0-5, I figured there was nothing to lose and opened up to Cam?s advice. What followed was the most remarkable comeback I have ever seen in my four years of tennis. I managed to squeak the ball over the net, Cam played his best, and slowly we gained momentum and ended up winning the match 0-6, 7-6, 10-8 (pro tie break) and then the following match to make our way to CIF as sophomores. This victory goes to highlight why you never give up on your partner (as much as Cam had the right to), and that a match is never over until it?s over (to quote my mommy).
After getting to know Cam and working out strategy and skills with a plethora of coaches, we got our flow and began to dominate almost all the matches we played. With his serves and my net play, we were a formidable duo, and nothing illustrates this point better than when we radically altered high school tennis forever with a ground-breaking strategy: The underhand serve. After Cam hurt his back and could not serve properly, we were forced to play through League Finals without one of our biggest weapons in Cam?s serve and times were looking bleak. That?s when Cam decided that he wanted to concoct one of the nastiest side spin underhand serves the world has ever seen and I suddenly developed the reflexes of an ADHD squirrel on caffeine. After winning a few of the early round matches, Cam and I up against a particularly tough team that was probably the toughest the draw had to offer. Many said I should step to the backcourt and brace myself for the inevitable smash to prevent us from losing easy points and me from losing my facial structure. However, Cam and I defied the teams we played and dared them to hit it past me, and even though I didn?t have to hit the ball 90% of the time because they would just hit it into the net or far too deep due to Cam?s snazzy slice, I?m still proud of the 10% I did do. We ended up winning in three sets and going on to win the League championship for doubles.
However, a synopsis of my high school tennis career would not be complete without detailing my single proudest moment. I think we take pride in moments when we don?t just succeed, but we take a chance and come out on top despite the tremendous risk. That was this moment in CIF; after winning our first match, we were locked in a tight contest with a tough team. The momentum of this game was swaying like a rocking ship, which resulted in split sets and a tie break to determine who gets to go to the third round of CIF. This was senior year for Cam and I, so I was not ready to go down here. After getting out to a quick one point lead in a tie break, they came back and we found ourselves staring at a 1-4 deficit. It was my serve, and I noticed the returner standing with his butt against the fence due to my fearsome 140mph (give or take 60mph) serve. After thinking through all the moments in time where people took a chance and never regretted it regardless of whether they failed or succeeded, and thinking about all the things I say I wish I would have done in the course of my life, I decided to go for it all. After bouncing the ball four times, I sneakily hit the ball as it was on its way to the ground again (the opposing player was looking and ready when I did this, so it was perfectly legal). After realizing what had happened, he ran up to try to get to the ball but couldn?t get there in time. Instantly the boat rocked back our way, as they were rather furious that I would use such a pathetic serve on them (which got us the point, so it obviously wasn?t too bad) while Cam tried not to die of laughter. We went on to win the tiebreak and the set before enjoying a hearty laugh about this moment for many days after.
These are just a few snippets from a career of memories ranging from getting into Harvard right before a tennis match to wearing a skirt (very liberating sensation?) to hanging out with the magnificent tennis teams I had the pleasure of being a part of. I?d like to thank the parents, players, and coaches for all they did for me to make these memories and infinitely many more. Tennis has become a lifelong passion for me, and I hope that when Cam and I are old wrinkly men we will still strip our shirts off and play the net game until the end of my days.
Alumni Drew Churchill (Class of 2011):
My Tennis Memories ~
Alumni Max Weishan (Class of 2012):
Alumni Jeremy Velasco (Class of 2012):
Motivation, synergy, persistence. These words are some of the few characteristics that I can describe myself after having much success on the Serra Varsity Tennis team. I started from the bottom and quickly climbed my way to becoming Captain. I had just transitioned from football to tennis during my sophomore year. The two sports were entirely different, but in a sense, were very much the same. Football was all about the rough contact, whereas tennis was about keeping self-composure. The similarity between the two was essentially about teamwork. Being on the tennis team for the very first time made me nervous, and excited, at the same time. Coach Dabney paired me up with Lewis McClintock, a true multi-sport athlete. We were both rookies coming into the season, but we defied the odds and gave it the best we could day in and day out. Who would of known toward the end of the season that this doubles team would end up getting seeded in League Finals; I was certainly surprised. Whether its sports, or achieving our lifelong dreams, we must give 110% in everything that we do.
Alumni Jeff Mehnert (Class of 2012):
My first memory of Serra Tennis was when I played with Drew Churchill (my first year of tennis) and we beat Axel Cramer's Point Loma doubles team to win the match and ultimately win the Eastern League in 2011. My sight of his whiff on the match point overhead is still fresh in my mind. My second memory is playing the game, Mafia, during 6th period before practice during my senior year. We played so often that I don't want to play that game anymore. Finally, my third memory is making friends with all the guys on the team. It was the main reason I loved playing tennis when I joined at first. I found a completely new group of guys that I am still bros with, 2 years out of high school.
Alumni Elías Quintero (Class of 2009):
#1: Had Josh Fox & Stephen Huynh in my math class. Saw them with rackets & asked about the tennis team. They suggested I join. I refused to join that year (I'LL REGRET IT ETERNALLY) & tried out next year...as a junior.
#2: I tried out...nervous BUT oddly comfortable that Dab was my coach. I had her as my P.E. teacher since 6th grade in Wilson Elementary! I was ECSTATIC that she was the coach. I really was. :)
#3: I had a junior-sized racket & Puma sneakers...not EVEN close to tennis shoes. I tried out & made it!
#4: Sam & I instantly clicked & became good friends on & off the court (still to this day). He was always my challenge to reach #1.
#5: Promised to myself that I would NOT get bageled during our match at Point Loma...I fulfilled it. :)
#6: Made it to CIF with Sam & got terribly sick. Ughhh...
#7: I was one point away from being taking #1 on the ladder &...I double faulted. HAAA!!!
#8: I DO REGRET something about joining the tennis team, surprisingly...the fact that I didn't join sooner. :)
#9: Love ya errrrrrone!
Alumni Sam Put (Class of 2009):
Sophomore year, 2007 - It was a humid afternoon at practice so I decided to sit down in the far doubles court; found myself a nice tree with some nice shade. Chris, the captain, started calling out my name & asking everyone where I was before realizing the burnt Asian lying in the back, half-asleep some five minutes later. Thus "Sleepy Sam" was born.
Junior year, 2008 - Drew, Jordan & I were riding in Randy's car to an away match. Randy just told us it was okay to eat in his car AS LONG AS we didn't make a mess. So I pulled out my Choco-pie & started unwrapping it. The sucker won't open so I gave it a little more umph & the tiny package exploded all over the car, the floor, Drew, Jordan, & me. We laughed it off, but Randy was probably pretty upset.
Senior year, 2009 ? Cameron Joseph & Josh Fox grabbing & lifting Max by the arms & legs & throwing him in the trash can next to the Serra Tennis banner. Good times, huh freshman?!
Junior year, 2008 - It was spring break & a bunch of the guys decided to get together & hit: Me, Drew, Jordan, Josh, Yip, & others. When I left to ride Jordan's bike around town, Drew decided it would be funny to hide my shoes & stick them under the fence windscreens. So I found my shoes, took Drew's racket, & threw it over the fence.
2009 - I was peacefully playing with a tennis ball when Drew & Jordan took my ball & decided to play ?monkey in the middle? with me. I ran back & forth about twice, then took off my chucks & charged at Drew & thwacked him after he tossed the ball. Jordan had the ball now so I took his backpack & threatened it. He laughed so I opened it & dumped everything out. Oh freshmen.
2009 - We just won our away match at Morse & were waiting at the park till the time came for our free meal at Outback Steakhouse. The guys started playing tennis baseball on the adjacent baseball field & that got boring so I took Max's hat & ran as he chased me up the grassy hill at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. He chased & chased until he was red but couldn't catch me so gave up. I placed the hat in his mom's bag & she gave it back to him soon after. But, not before recording the whole chase on video.
2009 - League Finals @ Peninsula. Just before leaving, we posed outside on the grass & took pictures. Somehow we came up with the brilliant idea of making a cheerleading pyramid. It worked out pretty well & was all life & smiles, then somehow Cameron ended up on Max on the floor...haha.
2008 - We were having our end-of-the-season banquet & I invited two of my sisters & my baby nephew. When we walked in everyone was at their own table so we took a new one near the furthest wall & Josh Snyder came to join us. After about fifteen minutes he goes "Okay...so is she like your mom or something?" & glances at my then 21-year-old sister. I burst out in laughter & she gives him the "Oh heck nooo little boy, don't make me beat you" look. We laughed hysterically for the rest of the night about stupid little things.
Personal Memory (#9): Elias & I had previously lost to Patrick Henry's #1 back-to-back times; both in tiebreaks!! And, as fate would have it, we would face off again in the quarterfinals. We dug deep, & kept on digging deuce after endless deuce; it was deuce EVERY GAME w/maybe 24 total! After an eternity, it seemed, we took the first set & zipped through the second for a wondrous 6-4, 6-3 win. We were so happy we couldn't stop smiling. We hi-fived each other & looked at the enthralled & amiable reflection in each other's beaming faces. Not even a 6-0, 6-1 beat down from the #1 seed twenty minutes later could dampen our mood. We made it to CIF!!!!
2009 - Graduation came & went with the wind. After the enduring ceremony & the religious cap tossing, all the seniors lined up to leave high school forever. Walking towards the ramp from the football field, we spot Coach Dabney looking puffy & pink on the side: she's crying. So we walk up to her & I stare awkwardly as Elias tries to comfort her & hug her. Even after leaving her, we were destined for another meeting & another cry in the gym, as we took one final bittersweet photo of the senior players & their lovingly affable coach.