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Southwest's tennis as easy as ABC

October 22, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

When Southwest High tennis coach Genaro Piniero took over the boys and girls tennis teams six years ago he likely had no idea what he was getting himself into.

It was a new program at a new school, and like any sport on any level, the new kids on the block weren't expected to do much early on.

Maybe somebody should have said something to Piniero and his teams, especially the girls squad. For the past four years Southwest has had the most dominant girls tennis team in the Imperial Valley, winning the four consecutive Imperial Valley League titles, including this year's, which the Eagles clinched last week.

Leading Southwest were singles players and four-year varsity team stars Bianca Bonilla and Judy Hsu.

In addition to Bonilla and Hsu, Southwest standouts have been singles player Ashley Ullal and doubles players Karelisa Jones and Becky Leone, Breezy Boniface and Kristina Estrada and Monnett De La Torre and Kim Slovak, all of whom have contributed to this year's championship squad. The team is 8-0 in IVL action with one week remaining in the season.

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"This team is really dedicated and really determined. At the beginning of the year we came in like if we had something to live up to because this team had won three championships," said Jones, a senior.

Over six years, Piniero's teams have a combined record of 51-10 overall and 38-3 in the IVL.

One may ask how is it that a relatively new program is the best in the Valley?

Piniero attributes the team's success to what he calls: "Coach Piniero's ABCs to winning."

A and B, he said, stands for Albert Bazan, one of the team's assistant coaches.

"His unselfish dedication to tennis in the Valley is a big key," said Piniero. "He has a junior tennis program that feeds the players into the Southwest program.

"By starting with them at a young age, it helps them to be prepared to play when they get here," said Piniero. "When they do get here, we can improve on their level of play with each year."

Then there's C, the community support, which comes in the form of teams assistants Fernando Lopez, Randy Lyon, Dennis Richmond and Dave Thomas. With five assistants to help him, Piniero said his players receive more individual attention during practices, helping to builds their skills and knowledge.

In addition to Bazan and the community support, there is D, for dedication. The Southwest girls practice six to seven times a week and play tennis year round.

On Sunday, while many other high school athletes around the Valley were enjoying a weekend off, Southwest's squad was at the school's tennis courts practicing.

Although they clinched the league title and have little to play for until IVL finals, team members put in nearly two hours of practice Sunday night.

"What we have to work for is that perfect record. We really want to go undefeated in league," said Slovak. "That's why we're out here. We always come out here on Sundays. We put in a lot of work to try and get better."

Said De La Torre: "I'm out here because of my love for the game. I love it so much and I like being out here."

Piniero said one reason for the team's success is its depth.

"Because of the volunteers we have assisting us, we don't have to turn anyone away. That's the reason for our depth."

The final ingredient to the Eagles' winning formula is the team's facility, which Piniero thinks does make a difference in the scheme of things.

Piniero's "ABCs of winning" may not be UCLA basketball coaching great John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success," but so far it's gotten Piniero similar results.

Each year the Eagles face different obstacles, but no matter how difficult things may be the team finds a way to win. Two years ago the Southwest squad graduated seven starters but came back the following year and went undefeated in league.

There's no one key to the Eagles' winning ways. It's merely a matter of everything coming together.

"If it wasn't for everybody involved, we wouldn't be here. We know that it's the players that actually go out and play, but what we do has a lot to do with all the help we get," said Boniface. "We also put in a lot of work. We give up a lot of other things to do this. And we do that because we care about the team. We all care about the team first and we give 110 percent to make sure we keep up the team's success."

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