Community support saves BC tennis teams

Leanne Cave and Leanne Cave

The Bakersfield College men and women’s tennis teams were all but canceled at the end of the 2002 spring semester.

“We were told there wasn’t going to be any tennis in 2003,” said Rob Slaybaugh, men’s tennis coach. “As far as athletics are concerned, if you want to exist, you have to raise the money for your operational costs.”

But thanks to strong community support and fund-raising, the teams will be able to compete the next three years.

“It was the tennis community that rallied around the teams,” he said. “A lot of people have some kind of a tie to BC tennis, either a son or daughter has played or they played for BC at one time or another.”

Slaybaugh said with the help of several professional tennis players, Bakersfield tennis clubs, local dentist Tom Stewart, Bill Wright of Bill Wright Toyota, BC athletics director Jan Stuebbe, and the BC tennis coaches, the college was able to organize a dinner/reverse drawing at the BC gym that raised the money to keep the program going for the next three years.

The effort to save the teams was worthwhile, according to Stuebbe.

“The teams are off to a very good start,” he said, “because of excellent community support and we’re able to save our tennis programs.”

The men’s team is off to an overall 3-2 start.

“So far we are optimistic,” said Slaybaugh. “We have played two of the top four teams in the conference and lost close, competitive matches, 5-4 and 6-3. It’s really a bit early to tell exactly how we’re going to do, it’s still early in the season,” said Slaybaugh.

Even though the team is young, Slaybaugh has set his sights on at least a third-place finish in the conference and said the men’s team usually finishes in the top 10 in the state.

With 14 players, Slaybaugh said nine are his “Traveler’s Squad,” the players who go on the road to represent BC.

The top nine players for the men’s team are Janis Taurins, Brett Huggins, Nick Loudermilk, Son Le, Marcelo Mena, Payam Rahimifar, Neeraj, AJ Palisoc and Andrew Angulo. These players play singles and then team up to play doubles.

Even though the women’s team is young, it also is expected to improve as the season progresses. There are only seven on the team this season, all freshmen.

As of now the women are 3-5.

“We’re 0-4 in conference,” said Keith Hinds, women’s coach. “But we play in the toughest conference in the state and we’re taking our lumps.”

The women’s “Traveler’s Squad” consists of all seven players: Larisa Dalton, Lana Johnson, Christina Randall, Sarah Hickok, Audrey Medina, Sandy Taylor and Annie Moretti.

“Johnson is our strongest singles player and also is very competitive in doubles,” he said. “For us to do well, Johnson will have to step up, show some leadership and have some wins. The three people I am most happy with right now and are contributing to the team are Hickok, Taylor and Moretti. These players have the willingness to improve their game and are very dedicated.”

Hinds said that the Glendale loss really upset him, because those are the matches that the team needs to win to compete in a very tough conference.

“The toughest part of the schedule is yet to be played,” he said. “Santa Barbara, Ventura and Cuesta will be the toughest challenges for us. We have to win the ones like Glendale, and we should have won that one.”