The San Gorgonio High girls’ tennis team dominated the San Andreas League finals on Friday, Oct. 29, and then celebrated with hugs and tears.

The Spartans swept the first three places in singles and nabbed a third in doubles under pleasant skies.

“It feels awesome,” said singles champion Elyse Gray. “I’ve worked so hard since freshman year. I was on varsity as a freshman and so there was pressure to do it [be champion] as a senior, so it feels good.”

Gray defeated fellow Spartan Christa McDowell 6-4, 6-1 in the singles’ title match. Gray has a 3.8-grade point average and said she hopes to attend the University of Redlands next year to study environmental science.

The slender senior had little trouble in the semifinals, defeating an opponent from Colton (name unavailable) 6-0, 6-2. McDowell edged her teammate Angelica Juarez 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the semifinals.

McDowell and Gray have been playing since they enrolled as pre-teens in the Tennis Buddies program at San Bernardino’s Perris Hill Park.

McDowell said she improved her forehand and serve over the years and was helped by the presence at matches of her grandmother, Maria McDowell, with whom she lives.

“Without her, I don’t think I could get through my hard matches,” McDowell said. “If I hit a bad shot, she tells me to shake it off and to just go point by point.”

Juarez, in the third-place match, defeated the same unknown Colton player Gray downed in the semifinals. The set scores were 6-4, 6-4.

The San Gorgonio senior received congratulations and a hug from her father Angel Juarez after the match.

“I fought through,” Juarez said. “I was tired but I kept going.”

Juarez said she didn’t start playing until her freshman year and didn’t know how to serve at first. She’s improved a lot with the help of Spartan coaches Mark Figueroa, Patrick Kahler and Mikah Kahler. She also rocks a 4.7 grade point average in school, and hopes to attend either Cal State San Bernardino, UC Irvine or the University of Redlands.

For Juarez, tennis is a stress reducer.

“It’s nice to come out here when all the stress and emotion of life gets to you,” she said. “It’s like when you’re having a bad day, you can take a walk in nature and relax.”

San Gorgonio also shined in doubles. Seniors Amares Vega and Alexa Roman-Serrano defeated a team from Eisenhower 6-1, 6-4 for third place. Earlier, Vega and Roman-Serrano were beaten 4-6, 6-1 (12-9) in the semifinals by a team from Colton.

“I like tennis because it takes a lot of cognitive skills,” Vega said. “I didn’t have a backhand or a serve when I started playing, but I practiced a lot every weekend to get better.”

Vega has a 4.2 GPA and plans to attend Cal State San Bernardino to study psychology. She also takes ballet, and thinks that helps her stamina and footwork.

Roman-Serrano, like her friend Vega, did not play tennis until her freshman year.

“I like the mental aspects,” Roman-Serrano said. “They can make up for a lack of physical [prowess].”

Roman-Serrano, who is also on the school’s debate team, has a 4.85 GPA and takes four Advanced Placement classes. She hopes to become a lawyer but has not decided on a college.

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(1) comment


John Murphy, your writing about Elyse is highly inappropriate. Why do you mentioning her physical attributes at all? It’s inappropriate and creepy. Please revise this article so as not to reduce her to her physical appearance

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