After struggling to secure enough players last year, Palomar’s Men’s Tennis is fielding a full lineup of eight Comets for the 2019 season.
Head Coach Ronnie Mancao, who has been coaching at the collegiate level for over 30 years, is leading a spirited team of five freshmen and three sophomores.
While most of the new faces have been involved in the sport for a number of years, Mancao illustrates that his emphasis this season is to get his players mentally and technically accustomed to the world of college tennis.
“We’re gonna really concentrate on, the freshmen especially, getting used to playing collegiate tennis,” Mancao said, “To be a little bit more steady and consistent with their hitting and decision-making and choices of shots.”
The sophomores elaborated on their coach’s thought, stating that their younger teammates would gain a lot of experience playing on a team.
Redshirt Cer Jeeno Villamore, a sophomore transfer who played for Chabot College five years ago, explained how college tennis is much more competitive than high school tennis. This is something for the freshmen to overcome as they are, in Villamore’s words, “fresh off from high school.”
Mancao has slightly different plans for his second-year athletes, two of whom played for the Comets as freshmen and qualified for the Annual Ojai Valley Tournament; the state tournament at the end of the season.
“They’re going a little bit more into the aggressive game for this year, because they’ve already learned the basics of consistency and keeping the ball in play and how to play points and make decisions,” he said,” So now they’re going to the next level. And hopefully they accomplish that.”
Altogether, he foresees his freshmen improving for next year and his sophomores qualifying for the state tournament. His players have similar expectations for the season ahead, expressing their inspirations and desire to see themselves and each other improve.
Sophomore and number one singles player, Will Molenkamp, predicts that it will be a successful year. “My motivation is to grow more successful as a team and ultimately have a lot of fun this season,” he said.
Similarly, freshman Chase White commented that he is driven to “get better, gain more knowledge out on the court, be the best that I can,” while supporting his teammates.
A couple of the players, freshmen Aiden Portillo and Isaac Hernandez, credit their love of tennis as their incentive to perform well on the court.
“I just love the game. (My motivation) is just for me to get better,” said Hernandez.
While confident in their abilities to further develop their skills, the team also elucidated a few obstacles they will face. Again reiterating some inexperience at the collegiate level, several of the players acknowledged the fact that they are a young team.
Freshman Matthew Tobar said that his “lack of experience compared to the other guys” would pose as a challenge for himself, as he has been playing the least number of years.
Along those lines, Molenkamp mentioned their need to “overcome coordination with doubles” because their team is comprised of players more experienced in competing in singles.
Another trial that is commonly seen in community college sports is addressed by a handful of the athletes. Hernandez, Tobar, and Portillo agreed that they will have to get accustomed to one another in order to establish overall chemistry.
“As a team, our biggest challenge is that a lot of us have just met,” said Hernandez, “So chemistry is still being worked on but it’ll get better over the season (as a team and as individuals).”
Despite the challenges they will encounter over the course of the season, the Comets exhibit high spirits and an eagerness to improve individually and as a team.