All-American tennis returnee focuses on team
Mardee Littrell stands out as an outstanding tennis player with an infectiously positive attitude and upbeat disposition that fellow coaches and teammates said they appreciate.
Sophomore Littrell ended last season in the top 15 for singles and in the top 8 for doubles, making her an All-American with her former doubles partner Karleyne Ishima-Oien.
Littrell’s 2011 All-American title was awarded when her doubles team qualified for the state tournament, where the pair won their first match and were ranked the No. 8 doubles team in the country.
“She’s very friendly and open,” Head Coach Ronnie Mancao said. “When she plays other schools the other coach always comments that she is one of the nicest players. Even at the state tournament I heard comments from other coaches saying that she was one of the most well-mannered players they’ve ever seen, and she always has a big smile.”
Littrell said she is looking forward to being a veteran this season and knowing what to expect. She added that she thinks knowing is going to make this season go even better.
“It’s overwhelming at first,” Littrell said. “The fast-paced practices and the matches after matches are difficult to get used to.”
Littrell admitted that her doubles game has been her – and the team’s- weakest area so far this season. Like the rest of the team, Littrell is still getting accustomed to playing with her new doubles partner, freshman Hillary Ramage.
Mancao admitted that in any season learning a new doubles partner can be difficult. This season he attempted to make that struggle smoother by pairing three freshman with the three returning sophomores.
Littrell is not only looking at the season ahead for herself, she said that she sees great potential for the team and is most excited for the strength in camaraderie this season.
“I’m happy that all the girls get along really well,” Littrell said. “We even have team sleepovers, so I’m most excited about spending more time with them.”
Bonds between the girls are strong, but another important aspect to Palomar’s success has been the girls close relationship with Mancao.
“Coach used to play tennis with my dad, so I’ve known him for years,” said Littrell. “We have a great relationship; we can joke around and he coaches me on and off the courts.”
Mancao agreed with Littrell, and said that it helps relieve the tension and stress of the player/coach relationship.
“Since I know her and her family personally, there is already a relationship there,” Mancao said. “It’s easier for her to understand what I’m trying to tell her, and she accepts the information.”
Littrell said that she enjoys playing singles and doubles equally, but feels less pressure when she plays doubles.
“Doubles is less stressful because you have the support of another player to talk your way through it and you’re not all alone on the court,” Littrell said.
Mancao said that this season Littrell is more mature than last season, and that she is “more match-oriented.”
“Last year some of her shots were loose, and this year she it putting better shot combinations together,” Mancao said.
The 20-year-old Littrell comes from an entire family of tennis players, and began playing at the age of five. Her father, professional tennis player Mark Littrell, once held the record for the fastest serve.
“Coming from a tennis-pro family it’s easier for her to understand what I’m trying to convey to her,” Mancao said.
In the upcoming season, Littrell said that she is looking forward to beating Grossmont College, who for the past couple of years has been Palomar’s tennis rival.
With what is expected to be another fabulous season, Littrell’s future in tennis is bright. She hopes to transfer to a four-year college, depending on her scholarship opportunities. She also plans to major in communications or marketing.
Mancao sees Littrell as a valuable aspect for the upcoming season.
“Not to take away from what she accomplished last year in doubles (by) getting the All American title, but this season… she stands out as a No. 1 singles player.”