This wasn’t the first or the last victory for the Cardinals. Launching into the regular season, the Cardinals beat rival Washington Eagles 4-3 in their first season game on Sept. 14, followed by a game on Sept. 28 against Galileo which they won 7-0. “I played the Washington game,” senior Melinda Lem said. “That was a game where our coach rearranged us. We were placed out of our comfort zones — the Washington game was definitely a challenge.”
The girls had jump-started their season with a series of preseason wins; in both the University game on Sept. 16 and Convent game on Sept. 21, the Cardinals prevailed with final scores of 5-2. In their preseason games against Urban Blues on Sept. 26, they won 6-1.
On Sept. 20, the Lowellites were ready to face the awaited match against the Drew Dragons, but had a letdown. Unfortunately, Drew had its schedule double-booked. “[Cancellation] hasn’t happened since I’ve been at Lowell — and I’ve been here for a year,” head coach Bryan Lee said. Though the lack of competition was a disappointment to the girls’ tennis team, they ran practice as usual, exemplifying their drive for improvement. According to Lee, the preseason match against Drew will not be made up because their schedule is already full.
Forty girls, freshmen through seniors, tried out for the varsity team on Aug. 29, as due to a lack of funding tennis does not have a JV team, resulting in a large overall girls’ varsity team. None of the perspective members were cut. “As long as they were here, they would be a part of the team. I don’t think it’s fair to cut people if they’re trying hard,” Lee said.
According to Lee, scheduling and concentrating on individual matches would be less complex with separate JV and varsity teams. “I want to be able to watch all the matches,” Lee said, “but that’s just not possible.”
Because most private schools split their JV and varsity teams, Lee often has to make accommodations, such as temporarily dividing his team in order to compete fairly. “There are no public schools that have JV teams,” Lee said.
In ways other than scheduling, the players believe that the larger team has worked out. Junior Verna Chan approves of the ample number of players on the team. “I think you learn from each other,” Chan said.
The large team size doesn’t mean that these girls aren’t close. “Everyone is really encouraging … we’re like a big family,” freshman Ashley Duong said.
Throughout the season, Lee has several plans for the improvement of the team. “I try to teach them hard work and discipline, which most of them are pretty good at,” he said. Specifically, the coach is working towards doubles players being more aggressive at the net and for single players going more strongly after the balls. “I give instruction to everyone and work with the kids individually,” Lee said.
Lee has made a point of teaching the idea that the scoreboard counts less than the team’s effort, although victories are nice. “The result isn’t as important as the way they compete,” Lee said. “They have to focus on things that they have control over like moving their feet, concentrating on their swing and ball watching.”
Players agree that while they are encouraged by their phenomenal success in games, they know it is not all about the scores. “I think we started off really well,” Duong said. “Win or lose we’re proud of each other.”
Trek to Dolores Park at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 to watch the Cardinals rally against the Mission Bears.
A version of this article first appeared in the Oct. 7, 2011 print edition of The Lowell.