In her 11 years as a tennis coach at Hillsdale High School, coach Jackie Nachtigall has never lost her zeal to teach the game.
“I’m a very hyper coach,” Nachtigall said prior to Tuesday’s boys’ tennis match against South San Francisco at Hillsdale.
This year, she may need every ounce of that energy as she leads a team of 20 players to what she hopes will be a Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division championship.
“I usually only have seven or eight players come out,” Nachtigall said. “So I was very surprised that we had that many come out this year.”
And Nachtigall is not complaining, nor is she cutting the team down at all as she is allowing all 20 to stay on the roster.
“I won’t cut any of them,” Nachtigall said. “These kids love to play and I love to teach them how to play. They all work so hard and listen very well and play ‘Jackie-style.’”
While “Jackie-style” may not be as hyper as its namesake, it is not frenetic either, and despite defying explanation it is proving to be very effective this year despite what might seem an obvious handicap: Of the 20 players, 13 are freshman and six are sophomores.
There are no seniors on this team, and none of them are playing like they know they are too young to be 6-0 in league play and sitting on top of the PAL Ocean standings.
“I am not concerned,” Nachtigall said of her team’s youth. “I am very confident in my four singles players and my top doubles team is playing very well together despite not having been together as a team for very long.”
Led by No. 1 singles player Cyrus Jin’s 6-0 record and a 5-1 mark by No. 2 singles Sridatt Bhamidipati and a 6-0 mark by the No. 1 doubles team of Eric Newgard and Mike Bendo, the Knights have staked an early claim on the division crown.
“Cyrus works very hard for us,” Nachtigall said. “He lost in the second round of the CCS last year and he should go even deeper this year.”
The Knights have defeated every team in the Ocean with one lone exception, unbeaten Oceana, which appears to be the only team standing between the Knights and the division title this year, along with a chance to move back up into the Bay Division.
“In all of my years here,” Nachtigall said, “this is probably my best year. This team has a lot of energy. They are learning and getting better every day.”