The Hillsdale High School boys’ tennis team is rolling as it looks to clinch its first Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division title today against Capuchino and reach the PAL Team Tournament, which begins this weekend, with its “best team ever” under coach Jackie Nactigall.
“They love to play tennis and I love to teach them,” Nactigall said. “All students love me and I teach them technique and skill.”
Nactigall’s team finished third in the PAL Ocean Division last year, but only had eight players on the roster. This season, the Knights (9-2) are carrying 20 players on the roster and it has paid dividends.
The team, which only carries one upperclassman, relies heavily on highly touted sophomore Cyrus Jin. Nactigall said he works extremely hard and “has very beautiful skill.”
Jin has been stellar in league play, leading his team with a 10-2 singles record. The Knights’ No. 1 doubles team, Eric Newgard and Mike Bendo, has also enjoyed success this season.
Hillsdale, if it clinches the league title today, will meet the second seed from the Bay Division, which will be either Woodside or Carlmont in the first round.
“It’s hard [to win] because they are in the Bay,” Nactigall said. “I have a very young team; they can be a strong team [in the future].”
Nactigall sees the potential of her team and for it to have a chance in the PAL Team Tournament, the Knights need to continue improving their technique, footwork and shagging.
Improving these skills is something her team seems prepared to do and that has to do with Nactigall’s style.
Nactigall is always playing tennis and she sees her style being like that of a teenager. It is something her players have come to respect and embrace.
Nactigall tells her players, “Hop, hop, hop,” as a way to keep their energy up and their feet moving.
“I have my own style,” Nactigall said.
Nactigall’s style and teaching ability carried over to her oldest daughter, Jasmine, who was the PAL Bay Champion in 2007. She now helps her mother train the Knights while she attends Stanford with the club tennis team.
The PAL Ocean only receives one spot into the PAL Team Tournament, increasing the magnitude of winning the league. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Unlike in other sports with three sections of 16 teams each, the CCS Tennis Team Tournament has only one section with 16 teams.
The PAL Team Tournament is scheduled to begin Friday and conclude Monday.
The PAL Individual Tournament begins Wednesday.