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TENNIS PREVIEW : South Gate Sings Praises of Aida


For the past three years, South Gate High School girls have reigned over the tennis courts, with Aida Orejel as queen.

Orejel won 17 of 18 matches last season and has amassed a 50-4 record since 1990. The back-to-back Southeastern Conference Player of the Year has been named to the All-City Team each of the last three seasons.

South Gate girls' Coach Brian Scott has his own theory on Orejel's hard-court prowess: "Aida plays like a guy, in that she is very aggressive and attacks the net, which a lot of girls can't handle," Scott said. "Half the battle of coaching girls is teaching them to be aggressive, but Aida doesn't have that problem."

Last season, South Gate (13-2, 9-1) faltered against Narbonne in the City Section 3-A Division first round. But Orejel, a 5-4 senior, swept through the season undefeated and lost a close match to Palisades' Nancy Kwon in the quarterfinals of the City Individual Championships. Orejel was the only 3-A player to advance that far into the playoffs.

Orejel's all-around tennis repertoire, which includes a lightning serve and excellent backhand, has served to establish her reputation throughout the area.

"We probably have the second-best player in the league (in Esterlina Lugo), but the top player has to be Aida from South Gate," Bell Coach Sally Fujii said.

Orejel, who won the singles tournament at this year's Watts Summer Games, should once again lead South Gate to the top of the Eastern League and perhaps even further in the City playoffs with a talented group around her.

Senior Roxanna Vidaurre of South Gate was an impressive 15-2 last season on her way to earning all-league honors and may very well be the second-best player in the area.

"Roxanna is very consistent at the baseline and is the best I have seen at keeping rallies going, but she needs to work on her aggressiveness," Scott said. "Her playing style is the exact opposite of Aida's, but at any other school, she would be No. 1."

Another returning all-leaguer for South Gate will be Linda Hong, who was 12-4 last year. Orejel, Vidaurre and Hong are all four-year team members and combined to win 44 games for the Rams.

"Lots of experience will be the strong point for this team," Scott said. "We lost a few doubles players but are top-heavy on singles players."


South Gate's closest challenge will be posed by Bell. The Eagles finished third in the league at 6-4 last year and 10-5 overall.

Lugo, who was 8-2 last season, is Fujii's top racketeer. At 5-8, Lugo's greatest asset is size.

"Esterlina is big and strong and is surprisingly fast for her size," Fujii said. "She has a good, strong ground stroke but needs to work on her consistency."

Lugo, an All-Eastern League first-team selection last year, tops a Bell team that has the most depth in the area. Starters Lugo, Irene Lopez, Abril Mardueno, Claudia De Anda and Aida Lugo all return for Bell.

Lopez, a senior, tallied a 7-3 record last season with a consistent baseline game. She needs to work on her serve and speed to surpass the 10-win plateau.

Mardueno and De Anda, both seniors, played solid tennis for Fujii, and Aida Lugo will be a sophomore.

Fujii also has good junior varsity prospects in juniors Cindy Alfaro and Haira Gonzales.

"With what we have, we should be in contention for league champs," Fujii said.


Both Scott and Fujii said they expect Roosevelt to be the most improved team in the area.

Roosevelt finished second in the league at 7-3 and 11-4 overall.

It will be up to new Coach Ray Trejo to keep the Roughriders going in the right direction.

Trejo will rely on junior Jennifer Elizondo to lead the way. "Jennifer is very athletic. Last year was her first year, and she has really caught on to the sport," Trejo said. "She is quick, strong and in good physical condition, but she needs to work on her serve."

Senior Leonila Ortega will be Trejo's No. 2 player.

Trejo doesn't have the physical ability of Elizondo, but she compensates for her athletic limitations with mental toughness.

"Leonila is a very smart, very patient player, which usually works to her advantage," Trejo said.

Junior Bilma Ceballos also returns for her second season.

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