On Thursday, April 21, the Yosemite High School Boys’ Tennis team (16-0, 9-0) accomplished something that had not been done in more than 20 years at YHS.
For the first time since the 1994 season the Boy’s tennis team captured a league championship and with just one match remaining are on schedule to finish the year undefeated, something Head Coach Aaron Eames is not sure has happened in the school’s 39-year history.
Despite their obvious talent the Badgers did not begin the season with aspirations of an undefeated season. In fact, in the past three years the team had not beaten tennis powerhouses Kerman and Chowchilla.
Led by seniors Chase Lassos, Aaron Bausch, Sam Williams and Oliver Currly the team featured a well rounded group of individuals who initially thought very little about winning league but instead focused on each match one at a time.
“As a team we weren’t really expecting this,” Bausch said. “We knew we had a good team but we are focused on taking it one match at a time and we are having a great time doing just that. No one is over-exerting themselves, we are just playing tennis.”
Bausch called the NSL title icing on the cake.
However, on Thursday with second place Kerman visiting Yosemite, thoughts of capturing a league title turned into reality with a 5-4 win over perennial tennis powerhouse sealing at least a share of the NSL title with two matches remaining.
Now the badgers will focus on the league tournament which takes place Wednesday, April 29. Eames said he anticipates a number one seed for the Badgers when the Central Section rankings are released April 27.
“Our short term goal was to win the league championship, which we have done. Our long term goal was to win a CIF team championship. If we are ranked number one we have a good chance and meeting that goal. All the matches will have to come through Oakhurst if we get the number one seed which I hope we’ll get,” said Head Coach Aaron Eames.
In the meantime the Badgers will remain focused on making history as they try to complete their undefeated season when they travel to Washington Union today to take on the Panthers.
When asked how he felt about capturing the Badger’s first league title in more than 20 years Lassos said he was proud of his teammates and wouldn’t have wanted to go out any other way.
“It feels great bringing a tennis championship back to Yosemite,” Lassos said. “It’s been even better to do it with my best friends and a group of guys I call family.”
Coached by Aaron Eames and Stan Lawrence the team relied on a team mentality in order to win and Lassos and Bausch said they owe much of their success to their coaches.
.“We played to everyone’s strengths. We have eight individual players and coach Eames and Lawrence allow us to play our styles,” Lassos said.
Eames, who coached several of the players in basketball earlier this year after the resigning of Coach Lopez on April 9, made quite the impression on his seniors who said they would miss their coach dearly as they move on to future endeavors.
“The player coach relationship has been awesome. We don’t really think about placing first we are just out there to compete and have fun. Coach Eames and Lawrence allow us to be ourselves and it makes for a winning environment,” Lassos said
Eames has a history of success coaching at YHS as he is one of the most coveted coached in YHS football history with an overall record of 110-77 taking the Badgers to two CIF D-III championships, and playing for the championship four years in a row. He is one of the most highly respected coaches in the Central Section.
“Coach Eames was our basketball coach and we’ve always liked him as a teacher and mentor. We really respect him as a coach. We respect him and in turn he respects us. It’s a really fun environment,” Bausch said.
Yosemite benefited from the addition of a transfer student, junior Steven Standefer, who transferred from Alaska earlier this year. Standefer was eventually given the number one ranking on the team and turned out to be a useful addition.
Eames credits team play and a variety of circumstances that came together to produce YHS’s first league title in more than 20 years.
“It’s a culmination of four years of work for those seniors because most of those guys picked up the racket for the first time their freshman year,” Eames said. “They have improved so much over the last four years and now they are on track to do something special. They have really embraced the team concept which is rare in an individual sport. Our seniors have led the way and we have developed team chemistry. They are really playing for one another and they have become a family.”
Lassos, who was one of two team captains was praised by his Eames as the team’s key to success siting his unselfish play and his natural leadership ability.
“Chase Lassos has really been the key to the whole thing. He was supposed to be number one and when Steven (Standefer ) showed up he got bumped down to number two. He put his personal expectations aside and really been a true leader for the team. Normally kids that don’t get what they want they get upset, but truly Lassos embraced it and has remained the leader for the team. This is a kid who his whole life has wanted to get into USC and he got it. I am just really proud of him.”
Despite their talent on the court the team impressed in the classroom as well. According to Eames, Lassos (USC), Bausch (UC Santa Barbara), Sam Williams (UC San Diego), and Sam Devito (Cal Poly San Luis) will all be attending four year universities next fall.
“It’s been great to win and win the league championship but its even more rewarding to see how well they have done academically,” Eames said.
Eames said he is proud of his teams success on the court but said is is even more proud about his athletes commitment to academics. Eames hopes the team will capture the coveted Section Academic Award which is awarded to the team with the highest total GPA.
“We have great kids and the fact they are all headed to major university says a lot. If your kids wants to go on and go to a major university we are we are sending more student-athletes to major universities than anyone else in the area,” Eames said.
The team finishes off the regular season today against Washington Union and will play next in the NSL Individual Championship Tournament Wednesday, April 29 in Kerman.