In the past Delhi athletics hasn’t had much to brag about. The high school hasn’t had a team or season to point to and draw pride from in many years. Last season the Hawks began to chip away at that façade in one of the most unlikely of places — the tennis court.
For the first time in school history Delhi High claimed the Southern League co-ed tennis championship with an 11-1 record, overcoming rival and stalwart Ripon Christian High in what the Hawks hope was the beginning of a rich tennis tradition.
“I live here in the community and I’m tired of people saying there is nothing in Delhi. Some of these kids had the same mentality and I told them to do something about it; change the culture,” Delhi’s head coach Filipe Espino said. “I wanted to change the outlook of this community, and if tennis was going to be the avenue then that was the avenue I was going to take.”
In his six years as Delhi’s tennis coach Espino has helped breathe life into a lackluster tennis program that was unpopular amongst the student body. In his first year as head coach Espino only had three boys on his team. Now there are 20 girls and20 boys on the court practicing, eager to learn the ins and outs of the game and compete for another championship.
“I make the environment competitive but for the kids that came out, I don’t discourage them from playing,” Espino said. “I tell the kids that they are affecting the community and they have. The community’s embraced tennis.”
Espino’s dedication to teaching the fundamentals of the game has paid off tenfold, cultivating an enthusiasm in his players and opening the door to others who might otherwise disregard tennis as an option. Last season’s success, coupled with the rise in popularity of Espino’s youth tennis program, has caught the attention of the USTA who is eager to target the untapped Hispanic market.
For now, Espino’s focus lies squarely on the 2012 season.
“Our goal last year was to win league, and now this year it’s sections,” Espino said.
Delhi lost four boys but has retains all its girls from last year’s championship team. Returners Erik Guzman, Kevin Zapien, Shecan Dhanda, Emmanuel Perez, and Beatriz Amador have the experience needed to help the Hawks defend their title and so far they are on course to repeat last season’s success. Delhi is currently 5-1 in the SL, having won and lost one game against Ripon Christian.