The Titans came into this season hungry, and it has paid off with a perfect 17-0 regular season.
When it comes to unsung teams in the community, one of the biggest this year may be the girls tennis program at Olympia High School.
The Titans just finished up the district tournament earlier this week, after press time, but went a perfect 17-0 — 19-0 if you include their two preseason games — during the regular season behind consistent, excellent play from top to bottom.
“I would just say overall we felt really confident throughout the season — like a feeling we didn’t have before — and we all came together to make it happen,” said Lizzie Connor, a senior co-captain who is undefeated on Line 2. “And I’m very confident that the girls coming next year will do the same thing. We have good depth to our team, and we just have a big, great group of girls.”
This year’s Titan team is being fueled — in large part — by what happened during its 2020 campaign. When the season ended prematurely, it was especially frustrating for head coach Bubba James, because he knew there was something special with the program in this moment. Luckily for James, his team was hungry and ready to go this year.
“After last year, our girls had a heckuva drive in them, (because) their season was cut short,” James said. “We beat West Orange 6-1 on March 13 right before COVID … and it was just shut down and it just killed our hopes, because we had all our pieces of the puzzle in place to make that drive.
“We were hoping to continue this drive, and we picked up from where we left off in March last year,” he said. “As a group — we have 19 girls on our varsity and JV teams — it was a team effort. When one girl might be down, the other ones picked each other up.”
For another undefeated senior co-captain — Josie Pham, who plays Line 3 — the 2021 season was about coming in and just going to work.
“We came in, and we wanted to win,” Pham said. “I mean, our top three girls are seniors — we wanted to go out with a bang.”
Over the summer, the girls spent a lot of time practicing on their own, and some athletes took to doing their own thing during the offseason to stay in shape. Pham took up running cross country with her sister to prepare herself physically for the season.
It seems like a proverbial eternity had passed by the time the team had gotten back together for preseason. For Connor, there was excitement in getting back together with her friends, but it also meant readjusting to team life and come together as fast as possible, she said.
Although things shaped up quickly and the Titans dominated in preseason play, none of them could have guessed that they would rampage through the year without losing a single match as a team. A big reason for such success after a weird year is because the team has been able to adapt to the circumstances and find new ways of supporting one another, Pham said.
“Finding a new form of communication this season was definitely important,” Pham said. “We had to search for a new way to show love and support for each other, because I feel like our team bond this year has been stronger than ever despite social-distancing requirements (and) mask requirements. Despite all of that, we were able to grow closer as a team, and I’m proud of that.”
During their undefeated run through the regular season, the Titans also were able to accomplish one of their first goals of winning the Metro.
“We just chipped down one match at a time — we didn’t look ahead,” James said. “But our first goal as a team is to win the Metro conference and be a champion, and we went 9-0 for that — that was everybody pitching in and helping out.”
With the regular season done and the district tournament finished, the concept of this season being their last high school season still feels surreal for Connor and Pham. And when it ends — whether that be in districts or states — they said they will always will look back on their time at Olympia fondly.
“I’ve been playing tennis since I was a little girl, and everyone always told me it would go by fast, but when it actually happens, you have to just sit back and be like, ‘Wow, it’s over,’ and you have to take it for what it was,” Connor said. “I’ll never forget high school tennis.”
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