Those interested in discovering the secret to the success of the Lowell girls’ tennis team need only look down and check out the Cardinals’ shoes.
It is there, in the worn soles, invisible treads and torn seams that Lowell demonstrates what has kept it on top of the Academic Athletic Association for the past decade: Other teams may be improving, but no one works harder than the Cardinals.
Lowell defeated Wallenberg 6-1 Friday at Golden Gate Park to win its 10th consecutive league title, finishing off an undefeated AAA season in which the Cardinals dropped just two individual matches all year.
"These were brand new before the season," said Lowell doubles player Jenn Hom, pointing down to her shredded shoes. "Now the treads are gone and they’re all torn up. We’re out practicing two or three hours a day, and we work hard."
Singles players Lana Tsodikova, Marianna Tischenko and Theresa Nguyen each won their matches
6-0, 6-0, defeating Simone Gardinier, Selena Tam and Lena Tran, respectively. Top doubles tandem Monica Lam and Jenn Tsang beat Fanny Ko and Min Li by the same 6-0, 6-0 score, while No. 3 pairing Aja Estaras and Minnie Wong topped Maile Young and Elene Mebuke 6-0, 6-0 as well.
Hom and her partner Sally Nes showed great spirit in downing Vic Chen and Susan Kouch 6-3,
6-2, wearing matching red and white face paint under their eyes and complimenting one another after nearly every point.
In fact, after one impressive Nes slam at the net, Hom exclaimed "There we go. I love you."
"I love being part of the team, and we’ve all become close," said Nes, a freshman. "We all have the common goal of doing well, but no one cares if you lose.
We’re all just having fun."
Nes mentioned a team overnight trip to the Peachtree Tournament in Fresno early in the year as one of the highlights of the season.
Tsang also pointed to the Cardinals’ camaraderie as a key to their success.
"The doubles teams all spend a lot of time together and really get along great," Tsang said. "And if we didn’t it wouldn’t work out. You need that teamwork."
Lam and Tsang have been friends for years but had never played together until this season, when they asked Lowell coach Terence Doherty to try the partnership. It seems to have worked, as the duo known on the team as MoJo will enter into next week’s All-City tournament as the league’s top seed.
"Every point, we just have the goal of getting the first ball in," Lam said. "And then we try to get the momentum and keep building and building from there."
Jennifer Salomon was impressive for Wallenberg, defeating Lowell’s Michelle Lam 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 in No. 1 singles.
But the Cardinals were not to be denied.
"It was a lot of hard work and I think we kind of progressed over the season," Doherty said. "And we ended up where we wanted to be."