The Lake Buena Vista boys varsity tennis team became the first sports program in school history to qualify for a state championship meet.
“This was the first time that any team at (Lake Buena Vista) has gotten all the way to states,” head tennis coach Nelson San Pedro said. “(At least) the first sports team (at the school). Unfortunately, we came a bit short, but they did well. ”
The Vipers had a season for the history books as they became district champions for the Class 3A, District 13, and regional champions after that.
Although tennis is an individual sport, San Pedro attributes the success of the boys on the tennis court to the way the team aspect is introduced to them once they join the team.
“Kids grow up going to tournaments with their parents, sometimes with their coaches, so they don’t have that team concept,” he said. “So, for them, this is kind of exciting to go to high school, where you (know) you’ll have your teammates cheering you on. It’s a win for these kids to be a part of something and play the sport that they like and love.”
Last year was an experimental one for the Vipers, because it was the school’s inaugural year and COVID-19 still was affecting sports play. However, this year, the program saw a big shift in its performance, San Pedro said.
“The first year … we just got to get to know each other a little bit, the kids found out what they were looking from me as a coach, and I think the second year we were able to put together a good team,” he said.
And numbers show the progress the team had from the 2021-22 season to this one. Last year, the team ended their play time with a 7-3-2 overall season record. This year, the boys conquered on the tennis court with a 11-3 season record.
The Vipers played a tough schedule, defeating Freedom, Horizon, Dr. Phillips, Gateway Ocoee, Wekiva, Edgewater, Boone, West Orange Olympia and Celebration. Their three losses came against Windermere, Lake Highland Prep and Winter Park.
“The most important thing is getting them mentally ready,” San Pedro said. “Let them know how to work as a team and get them in physical shape so when we play matches, they can last longer.”
To do this, the athletes train all year long — some with San Pedro and others with their own coaches.
“We do drills for stamina (such as) running and other things that are going to help with their conditioning,” San Pedro said. “We do a lot of that during the season, (but) before the season is when we work hard.”
With only 11 players, the team is graduating three seniors this spring and hopes to return stronger next year with some new players on the roster.
To keep competition at bay between his players, San Pedro strives to maintain a positive energy and atmosphere during practices and among his players.
“These are kids who have been playing tournaments for quite a few years already, so they have that in them,” he said. “They are very competitive, but it’s all about keeping the team alive and keep them moving in the right direction. We (focus) in one match at a time and little by little we see where the results take us.”