By Ed PiperThe La Jolla High School tennis team, bearers of a tradition of excellence displayed in 45 CIF team championships, have melded together elder statesmanship (in senior and captain Colton Kellogg) with a gold rush of talented ninth-graders this season to stage a 15-0 run in team matches, earning the deserved number-one seed in the CIF Division III playoffs.
Kellogg, an active and vocal leader, with a more serious persona than some of his younger court mates, prefers working with a doubles partner to the potential individual glory of a singles player. Meanwhile, his teammates vary from the smiling, approachable No. 1 singles player, Sasha Kovacevic, a junior, to the incoming freshman Hongjoon Kim.
A typical lineup card by coach Matt Previdi this season would feature freshmen Sam Hum and Drake Pieper paired up in No. 3 doubles, Colin Jarvis half of the No. 2 doubles duo, Riley Vickers teamed up with Kellogg in No. 1 doubles, and yet another freshman, Jack Hogan, in No. 2 singles. That’s a big changeover from the seven seniors who dominated the 2013 CIF championship squad.
“Having a partner out there on the court helps keep me sane,” said Kellogg during the course of the playoffs. “I always try to be a good example by being the loudest one out there.”
Kellogg led the Vikings in a pre-game chanting “haka” circle to get the energy up before dispersing to their various places on the six courts. Coach Previdi started that this season to build team unity.
Previdi is fiercely proud of his team. At the start of the season, when discussion came up of how much newspaper coverage the team would get considering the 20 or so varsity teams at the three high schools in the
Light’sreadership area, Previdi said, “Well, I would say that the most illustrious tennis program in San Diego CIF history with 45 championships merits coverage every week,” jokingly, but making a serious point.
Previdi couldn’t be more proud of his captain. “Colton has been one of the biggest reasons for our success this year, due to his incredible play on the court, as well as the example he sets for the younger team members when training and outside of matches.” It’s like having a second coach on the court, he said.
“With a team this young,” continued Previdi, “it would be easy to say ‘it’s a rebuilding year’ and throw up our hands. However, the attitude Colton brings to the team of hard work and positivity has carried over to our younger players and it shows in their ‘never quit’ attitude.”
Sophomore Marcelo Losonczi plays No. 3 singles. Junior Nikola Nikolic, plays with Jarvis in No. 2 doubles. Nikolic talked about the sacrifice players have to make to be on the tennis team: “Through the season, seniors Zach (Ye) and Winn (Cu) have led the team through example. They have balanced tough school schedules and stayed dedicated to the rigorous practice schedule of the team. Their commitment has inspired many others to work harder and to try and achieve more.” He said Ye has made marked improvement in his game this year — both physical and mental.
Sophomore Trenton Fudge, who also kicks for the varsity football team, compares playing the two sports: “The football team is a large team where we all consider ourselves brothers and have each other’s backs, no matter what. The tennis team is much smaller, so it’s easier to build friendships with the whole team. We will always pick each other up when we are upset on the court.”
Kovacevic, the No. 1 singles player, uses music and three words to keep focused: “Mentally, I love to listen to music. It’s calming and takes my nervous away. Ever since I was a little kid, my private coach told me to write three words on a paper ’calm, cool, collected’ on a paper and read it during changeovers. I’ve never stopped doing that. It really helps me get in a good mental place.”