Alyssa Gamboa is one of seven seniors on the Lady Acorns’ roster

Captains have team in position to succeed this season and
MORGAN HILL — This summer, Live Oak’s three senior tennis team captains dedicated themselves to bettering their program for the 2009 season and beyond.

Having seven veterans back, the Lady Acorns needed to recruit only three players to fill their roster.

The captains didn’t stop there.

“We know we’re going to win some games this year, but we want the team to keep winning after we’re gone,” Alyssa Gamboa said Tuesday. “We want the program to stay strong.”

Marie Lewis and Mika Matsumoto and Gamboa enlisted five new players; enough to give the program something it has not had in years: reserves.

“We barely had 10 players the past three years. Now we have 12,” said Lewis, the team’s No. 1 single.

“We have to yell at the younger girls to recruit just as well next year,” Gamboa said.

Logic suggests the 2010 Acorns will have a lot to live up to.

The aforementioned seven veterans are seniors and include five that reached the Blossom Valley Athletic League-Santa Teresa Division Singles/Doubles Tournament. Live Oak graduated five impact players from the 2008 squad that went 9-7 in Santa Teresa Division play, but appears reloaded.

“This year’s team should be about the same ability-wise. But the league has gotten better, so they’re going to have to step up,” first-year coach Ken Marques said. “I think this year’s team has a better chance for individual success; much better than a year ago. We’re further along.”

Live Oak’s singles ladder is as good as any in the division. Lewis, Gamboa and Matsumoto give the Acorns three potential wins every match, leaving Elena McElheny, a seed-hitting sophomore, in position to clinch.

“Elena is definitely carrying herself well this year,” said Marques, who was an assistant coach with the team a year ago. “It’s coming down to her a lot to win games. She’s usually the last one to finish so she’s playing well under pressure.”

During last Thursday’s 4-3 loss to rival Sobrato, McElheny kept her team in the fight as Live Oak’s lone victorious single. The Bulldogs took one of the three doubles matches, though, to win it.

“Elena has really stepped up,” Gamboa said. “She’s already No. 3 behind Marie and me right now so she’s probably going to do pretty well next year. We’re expecting her to lead the team next year.”

Marques is developing similar expectations for Lewis, who continues to pull out close matches with a crafty mix of skill and determination. Lewis overcame a 6-1 tie-breaker with nine consecutive points to beat San Benito’s Haley Barker last Friday, as the Acorns picked up their first win of the season.

“She was on her back but she came through. That showed a lot,” Marques said.

Live Oak’s doubles contingent lost McElheny but features a senior in each team. Jennifer Protsmann joins junior Amy Freitas in the top spot, Danielle Stevenson and junior Melrose Echra follow as the No. 2 pair, and Emily Mandel is a bookend with freshman Ana Ko.

If they can get two doubles wins each match, the Acorns will be primed for more than individual success this fall.

“They’re going hard every practice,” Marques said. “I think we’re going to do well in the singles and doubles tournament, but the girls are pushing to win as a team.”

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