Through 15 matches, both the boys and girls tennis teams for Olympia High are 14-1 this spring.
On paper, it was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Olympia tennis program.
The Titans boys and girls tennis teams each graduated five of their top six players from a season ago, leading many to surmise the program would have to weather some early growing pains this spring.
Even veteran coach Harvey “Bubba” James figured that — given the number of freshmen on both squads — there would a misstep here and there.
Instead, with district tournaments less than two weeks away, both the Olympia boys and girls are 14-1 as of April 6.
“We didn’t anticipate (playing this well) at this point, I’ll tell you that,” James said.
This week began with the Titans boys team defeated previously undefeated Lake Mary 4-3 in a match that came down to the No. 1 Singles match between Olympia junior Juan Bianchi and Lake Mary’s David Gorshein. Bianchi preserved the team’s undefeated record — and his own sterling varsity record that includes only one loss in three years — by scoring the 8-5 win.
On April 5, both the Titans boys and girls teams suffered their first loss of the season in respective matches against Lake Nona.
Bianchi, a high-level player on the club circuit, is an example of the culture James and assistant coach Carol Haderer have created at Olympia in which players with busy individual schedules come together to succeed as a team and represent their school.
“It’s completely different,” Bianchi said. “You’re out there on your own when you’re playing by yourself — there’s no one to kind of bounce your emotions off of. Here, when you’re playing doubles or you’ve got the guys around you to pump you up. It’s a great environment.”
A junior, Bianchi is relatively old by Olympia’s standards this season. The Titans boys team has just one senior, and he plays line five. The girls team, which has freshman Penny Baker as its No. 1, has no seniors.
“We can only go up — we’re all young,” James said.
Beyond the strong play of Baker for the girls team, another freshman who has stepped up is Alexey Timokhine, an undefeated freshman at line two. Other standouts for the boys include Kapindra Singh, Nicholas Galochkin and Ricardo LaVieri.
In addition to Baker, standouts for the girls team include Aubrey Barnes, Annalise Vetter, Juliana Ciccantelli and Daniella Sequera.
James said Bianchi’s leadership and dedication of the players — even when the varsity season ends — have been crucial to the team’s success. James and Haderer regularly travel to see their players compete on the various junior circuits during the offseason — both as a show of support and to scout who they will have competing in the spring.
“We go (watch) on the weekends, and we communicate with the parents,” James said. “It’s year-round, so when they come to high school, we know what they do and how they do it.”
Olympia’s boys made it to state last spring as a team, falling in the FHSAA Class 4A State Quarterfinals. Last year’s girls team was defeated in the first round of regionals.
With the respective success of both teams so far, the Titans are cautiously optimistic the FHSAA Tennis Championships — played once again this spring at nearby Sanlando Park in Seminole County — could be a destination for either team.
“We think we can progress — our goal is to get to state,” James said.
Both teams remain young, but with a varsity regular season nearly complete, perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as it did before.
“Some of the teams might underestimate us,” Bianchi said, referring to the inexperience on the roster. “And that might be their downfall.”