By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
To put this in perspective, Cristina Borsan was 2 years old the last time a Lynnwood High School girls tennis player advanced to the state tournament.
And about the same time her doubles partner, Monica Kwong, was having her birthday. Literally, her birth day.
Yes, the last time anyone from the Royals girls tennis team went to state was in 1997, which makes what Borsan and Kwong are doing this year a pretty big deal.
But then, going to state is a big deal for anyone, anytime.
Or as Borsan explained, “It matters to me mostly because it’s my senior year. But knowing (someone from) Lynnwood hasn’t gone to state in 16 years, that makes it a little more exciting.”
Indeed. Borsan and Kwong, her sophomore partner, will be making history of sorts — recent history, anyway — when they play their first match today at the Class 4A state tennis tournament in Richland. The Lynnwood pair will open against Kyana Esber and Katie Ly of Kentridge in the two-day event at Richland High School and the Columbia Basin Racquet Club.
Rob McMains, who is in his second season as the Royals’ head coach, said Borsan and Kwong “know they’re doing something that hasn’t been done for a long time. But we’re trying not to focus on it and make a bigger deal out of it than it is. We’re just trying to just play tennis.
“When you start worrying about that other stuff, you tend to not play well. But when you just focus on the match and what you’re doing that day, those things kind of take care of themselves.”
Borsan and Kwong played mostly singles this year and were steady players. Kwong had an 11-3 mark at No. 1 singles, and Borsan was 7-3 at No. 2, but there was also an understanding they would likely team up in doubles at the end of the regular season.
A year ago, McMains said, “they wanted to play doubles going to district, but I wouldn’t let them. I felt good enough about them competing as singles players … but then they didn’t make it to state. So this year they kept nagging me about it and they kind of talked me into it.”
Borsan and Kwong played one regular-season doubles match, which they won, and then won five striaght postseason matches before finally falling in the District 1 championship match, 6-3, 6-1, to Zoe Jovanovich and Elizabeth Norris of Kamiak. That reversed an earlier decision when Borsan and Kwong beat their Kamiak counterparts in the final match of the Western Conference South tournament.
On the court, Borsan and Kwong have similar temperaments. Neither is overly emotional, but they also freely express their feelings to one another. According to McMains, their ability to communicate is a big reason they play well together.
Finding two players who can be a good doubles tandem is not solely about ability, McMains explained. “It’s more about personality, temperament and communication than anything else.”
The two girls “get irritated with each other and they express it,” he added. “But they also care about each other.”
And in terms of their tennis, he said, “Cristina is a senior, so she’s been through more wars than Monica. But then Monica has a gear that a lot of people don’t have. She can put a lot of pace on the ball where it just kind of pops off her racket. … Cristina is a steady player, and Monica’s the one that comes up with the big-time shot.”
To win a state title, Borsan and Kwong will have to win four consecutive matches over two days without a defeat. And it will not be an easy path, given the number of outstanding doubles duos headed to Richland.
“I feel like we have a chance against whoever we play,” McMains said. “I don’t think we’re going to be outmatched. My only concern going in is how quickly do we get over the nerves, settle in and start playing our game. Because any time you’re going to state for the first time, you have that concern.”
Both players expect to be a little nervous today, but both are also optimistic about their chances.
“It’d be amazing if we won (a state championship),” Kwong said. “We won the Wesco (South), and now maybe we’ll have a chance to show our skills and our talents and how much passion we have for tennis if we can win this.”
“This is my first year going to state,” Borsan said. “And then if we were able to get first place, that would be amazing.”