Andrew Gong’s actions speak much louder than his words.
The soft-spoken senior doesn’t really remember how he started playing tennis. He doesn’t really know why he puts so much time into the sport. He calls winning the first Central Section singles championship in Central Valley Christian history “kind of a goal” and “nice to have.”
But don’t take what Gong says and confuse him for casual about his craft. Instead, just take a look at what he does on the court.
Gong’s practice routine during the school year — outside of the time he spends with CVC team — sends him to Fresno 3-4 times a week. During the summer he practices for 2-4 hours every day. On the weekends he averages two NorCal USTA tournaments per month.
During competition that translated into records of 105-13 in singles and 41-8 in doubles over four years as a Cavalier. He anchored the school’s first two Valley team titles before capping it all off with the first individual singles title.
“He was focused,” CVC coach Mark McAlister said. “He was on his A-Game. He was on a mission. He wanted to win that tournament. I’m proud of him. He made it look easy but trust me it wasn’t.”
Gong only lost six games over five matches during his tear through the Central Area and Central Section singles tournaments — a fitting end to an equally dominant season that produced overall records of 30-1 in singles and 13-1 in doubles.
“It meant a lot,” Gong said. “It was a great experience and it will make lasting memories forever. It was making history for the school.”
The individual Valley title was an equally fitting end to his Cavalier career that was always on the rise. Gong was a Valley quarterfinalist as a freshman and placed third as a No. 6 seeded sophomore. He drew the No. 3 seed as a junior, but withdrew from the field in the quarterfinals to compete in a NorCal USTA tournament — an event he no longer needed to attend as a senior because he already had his sights set on playing for UC Irvine as a walk on athlete.
Gong doesn’t expect to make the Anteaters’ Top 6, but hopes to be practicing with the team and move up as a sophomore or junior. It’s not that Gong can’t land a tennis scholarship or even a guaranteed spot on a college team; he is just determined to attend UC Irvine for its academics so he can study biology, attend medical school and become a doctor.
The choice says Gong is even more focused on his studies than sports.
Now that’s serious.
School: Central Valley Christian
Records: Singles, 30-1. Doubles, 13-1.
Highlights: The Central Section singles champion won the Central Sequoia League singles title for the third consecutive year. He did not lose a game in two matches at the Central Area tournament and lost only six games in three matches at Valley. Gong provided two nearly automatic wins every match, anchoring CVC’s run to a Central Section Division IV team championship.
Comments: “Andrew is dedicated to his craft. He works hard at it year round. He’s got a really lively forhand. He moves well and covers the court well. He puts a lot of spin on his forehard so it jumps off court.” — Central Valley Christian coach Mark McAlister
School: Central Valley Christian
Records: Singles, 23-3. Doubles, 16-0.
Highlights: Andrew Gong’s younger brother looks poised to keep “Player of the Year” honors in the family next season. He was a Central Section singles quarterfinalist as the No. 10 seed and took second in singles at the Central Sequoia League tournament. He did not lose a game in two matches at the Central Area tournament. Like Andrew, Bailey provided two nearly automatic wins every match, anchoring CVC’s run to a Central Section Division IV team championship.
Comments: “For a freshman, Bailey did outstanding. We asked a lot of him. There was a lot of pressure and he handled it really well. He’s a compeitior. He’s not going to lose too many matches. He’s got a lot of game.” — Central Valley Christian coach Mark McAlister
Records: Singles, 27-9. Doubles, 14-4.
Highlights: The West Yosemite League singles champion qualified for the Central Section singles tournament as the No. 12 seed after finished the WYL season 9-3. He anchored Redwood’s Central Section Division II team championship as the No. 1 seed, beating his opponet 6-1, 6-0 in the final.
Comments: “Evan is a heady player who is very good about determining his opponent’s weaknesses early in the match and exploiting them. He has natural, fluid strokes and makes subtle adjustments to his play which sets him apart from most of his opponents.” — Redwood coach Russ Brown
Records: EYL Singles, 10-0. EYL doubles 9-1.
Highlights: The East Yosemite League doubles champion (with Matt Ecobiza) was undefeated in singles during league play before advancing to the Central Section doubles tournament as the No. 10 seed. Phaphol and Ecobiza only lost six games in four sets during their run through the Central Area tournament as the top seed. They also won the Visalia Invitational.
Comments: “He’s so versatile to play singles so well and then be such a dominat doubles player. He has command of the game. His game is so diverse. He hits very consistent strokes. He has a good serve. He can sit on the baseline and trade strokes. He can serve and volley and attack if needed to. Rocky and Matt were the best doubles team in the area.” — Monache coach Gary Perez
Juan Carlos Silva
School: Golden West
Records: Singles, 26-8.
Highlights: Golden West’s No. 1 player placed third at the West Yosemite League singles tournament and fourth at the Visalia Invitational. He was seeded No. 5 at the Central Area singles tournament.
Comments: “Juan Carlos made a commitment to work on his game in the off season and his hard work paid off for him as he held the No. 1 spot for the season. He had some exciting wins, but more important, he inspired the kids at GW and now we have kids playing tennis that might not have given it a try. He is an excellent student and a positive role model.” — Golden West coach Rosemarie Lewis
Records: Singles, 22-10. Doubles, 16-2.
Highlights: Redwood’s No. 2 player placed fourth at the West Yosemite League singles tournament with an upset of the No. 2 seed and finished as a wild card applicant for the Central Section singles tournament with an upset of the No. 7 seed. He finished the WYL season 11-2 and served as a team captain for the Central Section Division II champions.
Comments: “Dom is an athletic, quick player who rarely loses a point where the ball bounces twice on his side. His demeanor is calm, and his disposition was critical in the clinching doubles tiebreaker in the Valley Championship match.” — Redwood coach Russ Brown
Highlights and Comments: Watching Frontier celebrate the 2012 Valley title on their court didn’t sit well with the Rangers. It did, however, serve as the motivating factor in Redwood’s run back to the championship where coach Russ Brown and the Rangers did some dancing of their own. After completing an undefeated season in the West Yosemite League, Redwood went on to win its first Central Section Division II title since 1994.
“I was afraid of winning because I thought if I don’t feel as good winning as I felt bad losing [in 2012], then it’s time to give it up,” Brown said. “There was just a warmth and glow after the [Valley championship] that I just hope to be able to match sometime again in my tennis career.”
The season started with a dominant showing at the Visalia Invitational where the Rangers were clearly ahead of other area powers such as Central Valley Christian and Monache. Redwood lost three players from its varsity roster during the year, but never saw its impressive team depth compromised.
“A lot of coaches could win awards with these guys,” Brown said. “It was them. Hard work on their part is what got it done.”
Brown, who has never taken private tennis lessons, was first exposed to formal tennis as a 9-year-old in 1973 at a city-sponsored clinic run by Sy Inamine. The former Redwood coach won multiple Central Section Division I titles and has a plaque inside the school’s gym as part of the Redwood Hall of Fame.
“I will never accomplish what he did, but having one Valley championship puts me in the same sentence with him and other Redwood coaches who have won a title,” Brown said. “Being able to say that I am Redwood’s boys coach makes me very proud, mostly because of him.”
Andrew Castrejon, Dinuba
Giacoma Catalina, Porterville
Matt Ecobiza, Monache
Tyler Lorentzen, El Diamante
Sam Orosco, Monache
Jesus Zamora, Golden West