Rarely does a tennis uniform have so much meaning.
But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many have learned how important the little things are.
So the Santa Maria High girls’ team was happy to be in their uniform on Tuesday.
It was a fun afternoon, although it had the typical Santa Maria breeze in it. But the Saints were in red and white, playing on the Minami Center courts in the middle of town, where they hosted a tennis match.
Saints coach Julianne Dolan said, “Just putting our uniforms together adds some normalcy to their lives.”
Dolan’s Saints then received Morro Bay in a season-opening match. The girls tennis season was originally scheduled for last fall, but the Saints will be delayed at least half a year instead of no season at all.
“We didn’t really know what it would look like,” said Dolan of the season. “We usually play in the fall, so COVID really affected us. We’ve been practicing for three weeks, which isn’t a lot of time to prepare. It’s definitely more about getting kids out and moving – something other than that the children have a screen in front of them. “
Dolan says Samantha Gonzalez is the team’s No. 1 singles player. Other top re-drivers include Jessica Arredondo, Yesenia Lopez, Jenny Aquino and Arely Garcia and the team also includes Alma Fernandez, Mia Santana and Noelia Cruz.
“The numbers are lower, but I have a good group returning to the varsity,” said Dolan, echoing the sentiment of other area coaches that attendance rates fell during the pandemic. “I have five returning players for varsity and a few returning for JV.
“We’ve had enough to work out the team, but certainly not the numbers we would have in a normal season.”
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Players are required to wear their masks during matches, and Dolan says they record temperatures before each match and practice. A major problem facing local athletics is transportation. School districts do not currently transport athletes, which means parents are left to drop off and pick up athletes from training and competitions or competitions.
“Transportation is a problem and it limits much of what our children can do,” said Dolan. “We can’t travel outside of the area because most of my kids don’t have someone to control them at that time of day. We are a bit house-bound. ‘
Dolan said the seven programs that make up the Ocean League will line up girls tennis teams, and the hope is that each team will play twice. She said there will be no league finals this year.
“We may only see teams like Mission Prep or Morro Bay once – when they come here – because of our travel issues,” said Dolan. “I think the season will run until April, so that will give us some time if there are catch-ups that we need.”
Gonzalez, a senior and best returnee, is just happy with some competition and a season no matter what it looks like.
“Having first place is good, it’s a competitive team,” said Gonzalez. “It felt good today to really be here and have a game, especially after missing almost all my senior experience.”
Gonzalez admitted she had doubts about the possibility of a season, which would have just been another hard blow to the teen.
“Tennis is one of my hobbies where I can just play and have fun,” she said. “I played pretty constantly when we got out.”
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