Seabury Hall’s girls tennis team is young but fierce this season

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Courtesy of Paul Albares

The Seabury Spartans girls tennis team has found success this season thanks to the addition of several strong freshmen players.

Sierra Schonberg, Staff Writer

Despite being few in numbers and having a majority of underclassmen, the Seabury Hall girls tennis team has persevered through its current season. Coach Paul Albares’s talent for teaching has helped this freshmen-heavy team develop fundamental skills, as well as a passion for the game.

This season, the girls tennis team consists of 10 varsity players. Practices are held with the boys team at Kula Community Center courts four to five times a week.

Originally from San Diego, Albares has been playing tennis since he was eight years old. He reached a 6.0 open level as a college player, and has about 32 years of coaching experience.

“I started [coaching] because I wanted to help people and I found that I had a skill for reaching people and communicating to them and enabling them to be more effective,” said Albares about coaching. “I like the whole developmental process for juniors and adults. I like taking people from point A to point B to point C, and having fundamental skills that they can build on, that they can use their whole life.”

Coach Albares is a strong advocate of teamwork. Although tennis is usually an individual sport that requires individual preparation, Albares said, “For Seabury and any of the teams I’ve coached before, we make it a team sport. We make it into a team effort, team energy, supporting each other, cheering for each other, practicing with each other, working on things with each other.”

When it comes to working together as a team unit, Albares explained that having a young team with new members can be somewhat challenging: “I think because they are so young, they don’t really know what it is like to be on a team yet. That’s a thing that takes years. The older players, like Maya [Grimm] and Lauralei [Singsank], are always trying to bring them together, and it does take time. Being a young team does have some advantages with energy and it has some disadvantages with team experience.”

Team captain and Seabury Hall senior, Lauralei Singsank, is an experienced player who started tennis in the fifth grade. As the only senior on the girls tennis team, Singsank is a great team leader as she has a positive attitude both on and off the court.

“It’s kinda an interesting phenomenon because of the way the sport is structured. If there is a doubles team, they work very clearly together. Otherwise, there is a lot of support by the team, both girls and boys. It’s not separated by gender that much because even though the girls play girls and the boys play boys, it happens at the same time and same place. There’s a lot of support from the team on the sidelines,” Singsank said about the team dynamics.

Singsank loves tennis because of the uniqueness of the sport. “It’s a combination of teamwork and individuality, which for me works really well. I think it brings together an interesting group of people. There are a lot of tennis players at Seabury that you wouldn’t expect. I think it is a nice sport that emphasizes teamwork, while not making that the only focus,” said Singsank.

One challenge for the team this year is experience, but there is no shortage of talent. “For the girls, we have a very young team. We are trying to develop the younger players. We have three freshmen [Chiemi Powell, Jessica Griffiths, and Olivia Hoekstra] in the top four, which is very unusual. We have some up and coming players who are more novices too, so we are trying to bring them up and keep them excited about tennis,” said Coach Albares.

After four years of unofficial tennis training, freshman Chiemi Powell “first started tennis out of boredom.”

“My brother was playing soccer, and I had nothing to do. Then I decided I like it because it’s a semi-individual sport, but you are still on a team,” said Powell.

Powell, as well as fellow freshmen Jessica Griffiths and Olivia Hoekstra, have proved to be outstanding additions and have promising futures on the team.

“I think Olivia Hoekstra and Jessica Griffiths are accomplished players. They are at different levels of experience. One of our great surprises this year was Powell. She is a freshman, but she’s very athletic and plays volleyball. She’s really improved a lot, ” Albares said.

When it comes to competition, both Albares and Singsank agree that there are several strong, experienced teams in the Maui Interscholastic League (MIL). The Baldwin Bears are currently the best in the MIL, but the Kamehameha Warriors are also doing well.

However, Singsank does not view the fierce competition as a setback; she instead thinks of it as a learning experience. “I think it is definitely a really good experience for some of the freshmen and sophomores on the team,” said Singsank.

In practices, “we try to incorporate technical skills, tactical situations, training and fitness, and also some team building exercises in each practice,” explained Albares. “Right now, since we are in the thick of the season, it’s much more tactical in playing points than it is working on technique.”

Determination, talent, and Albares’s coaching have led to impressive results in the past. “Last year, we had five players go to states and this year we expect to have more, anywhere from six to nine. That’s a guess, it always depends,” explained Albares.

This year, state championships will be held May 5th-7th on the Big Island at the Orchid Mauna Lani & Racquet Club at Mauna Lani.

Singsank, in her final season as a Spartan athlete, has some words of wisdom for her teammates and prospective players: “I would really encourage [the girls] to keep coming out and really show their dedication. Especially our two juniors this year, Maya [Grimm] and Angela [Yasutomi], who both started out without ever having played before– now they are really strong players and contribute a lot to the team. It’s all about what you put into it. If you show up and really put in the effort, your amount of experience will soon be overtaken by how much effort you put into it.”

If you have not made it to a tennis match yet, check out the Divisional Playoffs, which will take place April 14-16 and the MIL Championships on April 21 (location to be determined).