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Play Ethic Drives Tennis Success at Bolsa Grande

Matadors, stung by four straight first-round losses in section playoffs, played each other morning, noon and night in the off-season and are now 13-0.

April 06, 2004|Elia Powers | Times Staff Writer

As the team's captain and lone returning letterman, Dan Ho is the face of Garden Grove Bolsa Grande boys' tennis. But he certainly isn't the mouth.

Ho, an introverted third-year senior starter, is a noticeable anomaly among a group Coach Curt Chamberlain calls "a fun-loving bunch."

There's no reason for players to hold back their banter now, as Bolsa Grande, 13-0 overall and 6-0 in the Garden Grove League, is more than two-thirds of the way to a perfect regular season.

Ho's teammates have matched his resolve this season, particularly when it comes to one subject -- advancing beyond the first round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs, a feat Bolsa Grande has never accomplished.

The Matadors have lost in the opening round the last four seasons: to Long Beach Poly in 2003, to Irvine Northwood in 2002, to Palm Desert in 2001 and to Hacienda Heights Wilson in 2000.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 09, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
High school tennis -- Garden Grove Bolsa Grande High tennis player Dan Hot was misidentified as David Tran in a caption on a photograph in Sports on Tuesday.

After losing to the Jackrabbits, 16-2, last May, players expressed frustration at another season with a premature ending. So the team unanimously decided to continue playing -- unofficially.

They congregated on neighborhood tennis courts, rallying until dusk and continuing into the night, illuminated by dim lights that hover above a football field.

They played so frequently that their parents began to notice.

"They asked me, 'Why are my kids playing tennis so much?' " Chamberlain said, 'I told them, 'It's not my doing.' "

Year-round tennis is the expectation in Orange County, but this team stands out from the rest. In a school that Chamberlain says comprises 47 nationalities, this team has just one -- Vietnamese.

A majority of the players are foreign-born; their parents immigrated to Southern California in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now live in Garden Grove.

Not one player had competitive tennis experience before his freshman year of high school, and almost everyone on the roster had picked up the sport on a whim. Ho, one of the few American-born players, was more interested in basketball.

Their lives are devoid of personal coaches, invitational tournaments or anything extraneous pertaining to tennis.

According to Chamberlain, the boys' tennis budget at Bolsa Grande is $650, all of which is spent on balls. Players don't participate in an optional six-week summer tennis program at Bolsa Grande because of a $25 entry fee imposed on each student by the school district.

Players understand that the team is hamstrung by a lack of resources. But this group doesn't dwell on inequities. "It doesn't bother me," said David Tran, a junior who has teamed with Philip Do to compile a 37-2 overall record at No. 1 doubles. "I play for the challenge."

Bolsa Grande's recent success has prompted some changes at school. Two seasons ago, the school renovated its eight outdoor courts.

Players are almost entirely self-motivated -- the only carrot dangled had been a free meal promised by Chamberlain if the team finished the first half of the season undefeated.

Bolsa Grande wrapped that up Thursday with a 15-3 victory over Garden Grove Santiago, and the team huddled moments afterward to rejoice. "We're like a family," Tran said.

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