For the Burlingame girls’ tennis team, high expectations are not unusual — they are ingrained in school culture.
“It permeates through the school,” Burlingame coach Bill Smith said. “If they’re at De La Salle [Concord], [the players] read the articles; they know [what the expectations are]. Continued excellence of a program brings that continued achievement.”
Burlingame is coming off a season in which it swept through the league to claim the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title and reached the Central Coast Section quarterfinals.
Many of the players from that team return, but Smith emphasized the importance of expectations.
“Experience is not as important as expectations,” Smith said. “Expectations are high. They expect to be a favorite for the league title.”
The expectations are also high due to four returning members who are in the junior ranks of the United States Tennis Association.
Seniors Brooke Tsu and Polina Davidenko, junior Lauren Sinatra and sophomore Alex Harrigan are the Panthers’ top four singles players and return to help improve upon the team’s finish last season.
Tsu has claimed two straight PAL singles titles and, according to Smith, should be highly recruited by colleges.
The Panthers (5-3, 5-0 PAL Bay Division) were knocked out of the CCS playoffs by Monta Vista, a perennial CCS and NorCal contender, and fell to the Matadors again in nonleague play 5-2.
Their other two losses came against Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep, and Smith thought his team let those matches slip away.
Smith still thinks his doubles teams are where his team falls short.
“Doubles teams need to push themselves,” Smith said. “But they’ve taken some dramatic steps. All the players progressed in the games from last season. We’ve got a lot of improving if we’re going to improve on our performance of last year.”
Smith has coached the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams at Burlingame since 1997 and the program was in need of a quick rebuild, Smith said.
The Burlingame girls’ program had been down for a few years and was not the contender it had been in years past.
“There was not a lot of experienced players,” Smith said.
Janelle Perez, who graduated from Burlingame in 1998 and went on to play at Penn State, pushed that team and Smith said it was a “quick rebuild.”
“We had a bunch of athletes and talked them into playing tennis,” Smith said of girls who did not consider tennis their primary sport.
During that first season, the girls’ team was competing for the league title and it quickly built from there.
Burlingame has been a player for the league title since and the culture mirrors that sentiment.