By Phil Dailey
The La Jolla High girls tennis team is always a strong contender for the CIF title and this season is no different.
There has been one major change this season, however, as long-time coach Maggie Mulkins stepped down as the team’s head coach. Taking over is a familiar face to the program in Lisa Shih, a 2004 La Jolla High graduate who also served as an assistant last season.
Despite a new coach, the goals have remained the same.
“We all know what the goal is, and that’s to win CIF,” said Shih, who also played college tennis at UC Irvine.
The team’s goal of winning CIF came up short last season as the Vikings lost narrowly in the finals to cross-town rival La Jolla Country Day.
Since 1977, the Vikings have won CIF 22 times and appeared in the finals all but twice during that 34-year span.
So far this season, the team is off to a hot start beating Scripps Ranch, University City and Our Lady of Peace in the their first three matches.
The team recently won the Titan North County Invitational Double Tournament, a first for the school. The Vikings beat Torrey Pines in the finals to capture the championship.
“It was a fun experience and it was really fun to see what other teams are out there,” freshman Kylee Hum said.
The team is led by Alison Klein and Emily Kuo, both of whom played in the CIF individual tournament last season. Klien lost in the quarterfinals while Kuo came up short in the third round. Both lost to the eventual winner and runner-up from Torrey Pines High School.
But when it comes to Division III, the Vikings won’t play Torrey Pines in the team competition. And with seven more matches this month the postseason is still a month away.
But despite the early-season success, the team has not forgotten last season’s loss to Country Day, a loss that has the team focused.
“A lot of parents have come up to me and said, ‘My daughter has been playing in the offseason,’” Shih said.
“It’s hard not to think about that final match and I’m doing my best not to think about it. I think right now, they talk about it, but I say, ‘Let’s focus on the match we’re playing now.’”
One difference in coaching styles Shih has added has been the way practice has been run. The players say there is a faster pace to practice, a nice change from what they have experienced in the past.
“We have more drilling,” Klein said. “They are shorter, but more concise. (Shih) brings a lot of her college tennis drills to the team.”
And that could be the difference this season. Though CIF is still a month away, there’s no doubt that this squad is building toward being the best Division III team in the San Diego Section.
“We are definitely expecting to see Country Day in the finals of CIF and hopefully beat them,” Klien said. “We’re already starting to strategize and how we’re going to have our lineup and who we’re gonna beat this year.”