In a division with two of the state’s strongest tennis teams, the Los Altos High girls have essentially been playing for third place since their league opener. As the regular season comes to a close, the Eagles are in prime position to do just that.
“This is our biggest week,” coach Hung Nguyen said. “If we go undefeated, we’ll secure third.”
Los Altos entered the week with a 5-4 record in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division. Beating host Homestead Tuesday (after the Town Crier’s press deadline) and visiting Palo Alto Thursday (match scheduled 3:30 p.m.) guarantees the Eagles the No. 3 spot with only next week’s match against undefeated Saratoga remaining.
If Los Altos locks it up, expect it to be for the same reasons the team has built a 10-8 overall record. While the Eagles are strong at the top of their lineup, they don’t rely on just a few players or one side of the ladder to win.
“It’s been a team effort,” said Nguyen, in his second year as varsity coach. “The wins probably won’t come from the same place. We never know where the win is going to come from to seal the match.”
One of the wins almost always comes from Kacey Incerpi, who plays No. 1 singles. The freshman has only three losses on her record.
“Kacey has good skill, but her greatest strengths are tenacity and determination,” Nguyen said. “She scrambles for every point, never gives up and wears down opponents.”
She displays leadership qualities as well.
“Kacey’s a good fit for the team,” Nguyen said. “She’s a true team player who helps her teammates.”
No. 2 player Marika Lee has won nearly as many matches as Incerpi, according to the coach, and plays the game just as hard.
“She has a big forehand and that determination, too,” Nguyen said of the senior. “If (the match) goes to a third set, she usually wins.”
The coach described Lauren Lui at No. 3 as another player with power. The junior has won approximately half her matches, including the clincher against Gunn Oct. 12.
No. 4 player Jill Rubin has a similar record. The senior isn’t the most skilled player on the squad, but Nguyen said she has the biggest heart.
On the doubles side, junior Ali Dyer and sophomore Alice Carli hold down the top spot. The duo won five consecutive matches before falling to Gunn last week.
“They have great camaraderie – they help each other and get along off the court,” said Nguyen, who also praised their strong ground strokes.
Although senior Trisha Nangia and sophomore Katie Kouvelas didn’t join forces until a quarter of the way into the season, they have thrived at No. 2 doubles.
“They complement each other well,” Nguyen said. “Katie is aggressive at the net and Trisha is a solid baseline player.”
The No. 3 duo – junior Aimee Dang and senior Kelly Moulds – has “won crucial matches for me,” the coach said.
Considering the Eagles graduated nine players in June and play in a formidable league, Nguyen called their success “surprising.” Los Altos has defeated every team in the division but Saratoga and Monta Vista, squads the coach ranks among the state’s best.
“We’re overachieving, which is great,” Nguyen said. “Close to half our wins were 4-3 matches – we’re not dominating teams – but we’re pulling out close matches.”