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League Title Nguyen's Second-Biggest Victory

November 12, 2001|Lauren Peterson

West Covina South Hills High's Minhdan Nguyen won the Valle Vista League singles title last week with a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 upset of top-seeded Laura Hui of Sierra Vista, an opponent she had never previously defeated. "I just couldn't believe it," Nguyen said. "I never should have beaten that girl. I wasn't expecting to win against her at all."

That final-round match, which capped a four-round league tournament, wasn't the No. 4-seeded Nguyen's biggest victory of the year, though.

That came in January, when she returned to South Hills after beating leukemia into retreat.

"My sister keeps calling me the comeback kid," Nguyen said.

Last week's victory capped a senior season in which Nguyen went 46-13, including 38-4 in league play, as the Huskies' No. 1 player.

She helped South Hills achieve an 18-2 record, including a 14-0 mark in Valle Vista matches that gave the Huskies their first league championship since 1998.

"It was just awesome," South Hills Coach Tiffany Hall said. "What a comeback."

Nguyen missed all of last season and the fall semester of her junior year while undergoing chemotherapy to treat the acute promyelocytic leukemia with which she was diagnosed in the summer of 2000.

Although the disease was caught relatively early and is now in remission, her case was far enough along to warrant aggressive treatment.

Nguyen's symptoms and the subsequent chemotherapy led to nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and loss of her hair. But it also brought an increased awareness and profound appreciation of family, friends and life.

"I understand that nothing's a given," she said.

Nguyen, 17, is active on the South Hills campus, having recently helped organize homecoming activities and served as emcee for the ceremonies. As a sophomore, she was class secretary, and she is on the yearbook staff. Those activities are sandwiched around tennis and five classes, including some for advanced-placement credit. She has a 4.09 grade-point average.

Nguyen's hospital stays and the ensuing months of sickness were eased by a wellspring of support from family, friends, classmates and teachers.

"I had so much support," she said. "I've always had a lot of friends, but now I have a more complete appreciation of them."

Although Nguyen will have to be cancer-free for five years before she will be considered cured, positive results of recent biopsies and monthly check-ups have left her outlook promising.

"I seem more optimistic," she said. "Everything happens for a reason. I learned a lot from this."

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