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By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A year removed from tennis renewed Angel Tran’s passion for the game and aided a rebuilding season for Santa Rosa Junior College women’s tennis.

The former All-Empire standout from Piner high provides one of the Bear Cubs best shots to reach the California Community College Athletic Association championships.

“It’s going to be a tough one. I’m hoping to pull it out,” Tran said.

The quest begins Friday at the Big 8 Conference singles and doubles tournament, running through Saturday at American River College in Sacramento. Win a couple of matches and advance to the state championships later this month in Ojai.

Tran is Santa Rosa’s top singles player. She teams with Jacque Bisba in No. 1 doubles for the Bear Cubs.

The pair leads a Santa Rosa squad made up entirely of first-year college players.

“Angel has been thrust into tough matches,” said Santa Rosa coach Jay Samonte. “She’s definitely made the adjustment. She’s motivated.”

A three-sport standout at Piner, tennis was Tran’s second sport. Best at badminton, Tran was All-Empire throughout high school including player of the year as a junior and senior. She was twice all-league in basketball. In tennis, Tran was All-Empire two years and a North Bay League runner up in singles.

Academics, though, was Tran’s focus her first year at the junior college.

Deciding to again take up competitive tennis, Tran soon was reminded of the work needed to climb the player ladder.

“I was rusty. But I was surprised how well I played,” Tran said.

Forehands and backhands with a measure of power were there. Volleys and serving needed work.

Developing a more complete game included playing better defensively, keeping points alive to set up sure winning shots.

“I had to become a smarter player,” Tran said. “It was difficult. You kind of just have to be determined to change your old ways and listen to the coach and what he has to offer you. And you have to work on it. You have to practice over and over until you get it right.”

The Santa Rosa women have been determined to improve. Tran helped lead that push.

“This has been one of those special years,” Samonte said. “It’s really enjoyable for me to coach these girls.”

To advance in singles play, Tran will draw on the demands of playing No. 1 for Santa Rosa. Tran appreciated what success she had in those featured matches.

“Losing requires mental toughness. To play something you love so much and not win is hard,” said Tran. “What kept me going was just the love of the game.”

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