The results at practice have been mixed so far, but learning, not win-loss numbers, is the focal point of early workouts, according to third-year coach Raustand Nzoule.
“Right now, we’re working on a lot of conditioning at practice,” Nzoule said. “We’ve got about 14 girls out here (practicing) on a regular basis, so the desire and interest in the sport are definitely there.”
The Tigers finished 2011 Western Athletic Conference play in fourth place with a 4-5 league record. In its final WAC matchups of the season, Patterson completed a season-series sweep of Pacheco High of Los Banos, 7-2, but lost two days later to Modesto’s Central Catholic High, 5-4.
“Last year, we had a few experienced players that helped us come together as a team,” Nzoule said. “This year, we want to continue that support of each other and grow from our experiences.”
Because of the new Tigers added to the lineup, Nzoule said, “I don’t yet know what to expect from this team — there is no telling how well they can do. I don’t want to state any limits on them, because many have already improved since practice began (Aug. 6).”
The newly formed group, including junior Nsimba Mahungu, a three-year starter, is taking advantage of the first opportunity for consistent playing time during practice.
“We are all working toward common goals,” Mahungu said. “All we can do is try our best and hope to improve every year.”
Nzoule said Mahungu’s value as a leader on and off the court increased tremendously with the graduation of Elsa Miranda (No. 1 singles), Sonia Jimenez (No. 3 singles) and Samantha DeLaRosa (No. 1 doubles).
“She understands the sport, and she has the experience,” Nzoule said. “Since I’ve been here, she’s been at all of the matches. That is the sort of example that can help this young team.”
Also back are starters Kelby Norfleet and Kendal Norfleet, both juniors. The sisters contribute leadership and valuable varsity experience to the team, Nzoule said.
“Our experienced players have to be ready to step up when they are called on,” Nzoule said. “(The Norfleets) have been doing everything we have asked them to do and are a huge part of this team.”
Patterson has a young squad, but one that is willing to learn — and that pleases Nzoule.
“These girls are diligent, and they are becoming good team players in an individual sport,” Nzoule said. “They understand that they need to work harder to become better tennis players.”
Though the Tigers look to field a competitive team, they may still be a season or two away from being truly competitive in the WAC, according to Nzoule. Still, the league title is up for grabs, with no clear favorite, and with no truly dominant players, depth will be essential.
“I want my athletes to become more confident and fundamentally sound. Their court movement and footwork will improve with more practice,” Nzoule said. “I want the players to never settle for less than their best effort.”
Patterson’s season begins Sept. 4 at home against league foe Livingston High.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org. At a glance
•COACH: Raustand Nzoule, third season
•LAST YEAR: 4-5 Western Athletic Conference (fourth place)
•KEY LOSSES: Elsa Miranda, Sonia Jimenez, Samantha DeLaRosa
•KEY RETURNERS: Nsimba Mahungu, Kelby Norfleet, Kendal Norfleet
•TOP NEWCOMERS: None