The Firebaugh High School girls’ tennis team, the Eagles, has been off to a great start this year. The team is coached by Juan Esparza, who has coached for six years. His two assistant coaches are Adriana Ruiz and Melany Navarro, an FHS graduate who played on the varsity squad last year. 

Seniors Davina Ruiz and Gaby Rodriguez are the captains of the varsity team. Both girls have played tennis for four years, and Davina is number one while Gaby is number five. 

Esparza shared that his coaching philosophy is to condition and train hard. “I believe there’s always a team that is going to be better than us,” he said.

Last year, the high school girls’ tennis team was undefeated in league and placed second in the Valley Championship against Caruthers High School. Esparza believes that he and the team misjudged their opponent, thinking they would achieve an easy victory.

“When we lost against Caruthers, my team and I learned that you can never underestimate a team,” Esparza said.

The team’s biggest goal this year is to be champions of both the West Sierra League and the Valley. Esparza sees the motivation in his athletes and their hunger to return to the Valley Championship, noting their receptiveness to coaching on the court.

Davina Ruiz also sees the connection the girls have. “We are all united, and it shows on the court. We move through the games as a team, rather than as individuals,” she said.

Many of the girls on the tennis team express their gratitude for Coach Esparza and the significant lessons he has taught them in their time as tennis players. Viviana Jasso, number three in singles, said, “Esparza is a great coach. He teaches us how to balance hard work and effort, all while making sure we have a good laugh. He’s shown us that nothing we hope to achieve is going to be handed to us, it all comes from the dedication we put in.”

This year, Firebaugh High School has been working to redo the tennis courts. The tennis team has been traveling to Madera South High School to borrow time on their tennis courts for practice on weekday evenings. Once the courts are completed, the girls will be able to practice and play on the new tennis courts at Firebaugh High. 

Esparza has taught his players several things about tennis in the technical sense. Number eight, Angela Rosa, said, “He has also taught us how to face adversity, considering that we had to practice on elementary school blacktops the whole summer. Plus, we commute 80 minutes every day to practice in order to get better.”

The Eagles’ first league game is Sept. 19 against Avenal.

Samantha Rangel