Seven year itch is over, Lady Jags tennis is back


Aide Orantes-Esquivel sets up to fire a backhand return over the net. After a seven year absence the Lady Jags tennis team returned to the court this spring. Photo Thomas Contant

“Keep your racket up.”

“Fix your feet.”

“Always know the score.”

Subtle intricacies of tennis can once again be heard booming across Southwestern College’s newly-resurfaced courts.

After a seven year absence, Lady Jags tennis is back. No one is happier than Coach Susan Reasons.

Budget shortfalls were blamed for the abrupt suspension of the Jags’ tennis program in 2009. No timetable was offered for its return. It took seven years.

Reasons, who coached the team from 2000 until its suspension, is back to head the team. A 2011 SWC Hall of Fame inductee, she said that she was not sure why it took so long.

“Every year it was just, ‘well it’s not going to happen this year,’” she said. “It’s almost like you lose your arm, but then you somehow get it back. It feels like there was always something missing these last seven years. I feel like I’m home again.”

Athletic Director James Spillers said the return of the program was part of SWC’s gender equity plan.

“Every community college athletic program has a gender equity plan where we look at providing intercollegiate sport experience for the underrepresented gender,” he said. “We thought there was no better way to meet that need than to bring back women’s tennis.”

Reasons said rebuilding a storied program that produced a national champion (Katalina Romera in 2001) and SWC’s only California Scholar Athlete of the Year (Viridiana Martino in 2007) would be hard work. It all begins with giving young women a chance.

“We’ve got this opportunity here for girls now,” she said. “Come to Southwestern, come study here. We’ve got something here for you as an athlete and a student.”

Liliana Martinez said she took the tennis class in a previous semester, but was unsure if she would get a chance to play on a team.

“In high school I was taking college biology so I couldn’t go to tennis,” she said. “So in college I took the tennis class. I felt good about it, so my goal was to be on the tennis team, if there was ever going to be one here. I didn’t expect it to be this year.”

Frances-Steffany Aquino played in high school and after learning that there would be an SWC team, she decided to go for it.

“When I first came to Southwestern I didn’t plan on doing any sports,” she said. “I wanted to focus on my studies. But over summer when I took the class I fell in love with the sport again, so I decided I was going to keep going.”

Reasons said she may not have gone to college without tennis. Playing for SWC in1979 was a life changer, she said.

“When kids join these clubs or teams on campus it’s about more than sports,” she said. “I get a sense that they feel they’re a part of Southwestern now. They’re a part of something. It’s not just about attending college, not just about getting your degree. It’s about being a part of it. Life is experiences, not just going through the motions.”

Though the new team had trouble winning to start the season, Reasons said she has seen improvement with each match.

Her young team’s inexperience and missing out on the pre-season program have not deterred Reasons.

“I’m the only coach of any team, our school and the conference, that did not get to meet with her team prior to the season starting,” she said. “Our goal this year is to become better tennis players strategically, technically and more experienced within our matches so we’ll turn some of these around, ‘cause you play everyone twice.”

Reasons said playing a college sport can have a lasting effect. She said she does everything in her power to make tennis memorable for her players.

“The life experiences are what you’re going to remember. It builds the whole person. So if I can make it work, I will. I call myself Coach more than I call myself by my first name. ‘Til I take my last breath on this earth, I’ll be Coach. That’s who I am.”


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