Palma boys tennis head coach Greg Andersen saw the potential in his team as early as last season.
A year after only winning one match all season, the Chieftains find themselves atop the mountain at 12-0 and league champions, their first banner in 40 years.
“We were always going to focus on just getting better each day,” Andersen said of his approach to rebuild the Palma program. “We don’t mind what the scoreboard says. At the end of the day, if we’re giving 100 percent and we’re focused on getting better every single time we step out here, that will take care of itself.”
That attitude instilled into his players carried over with the returners of this year’s squad.
“I was really amazed with the camaraderie of the team and the individual players within the team were just staying motivated,” Andersen said. “Fin (Finian Rawson) started off really slow, our No. 1 player. He lost to the North (Salinas) High guy the first match (Prince Rios), and then he lost to a Monterey guy in the preseason.”
Andersen knew it wouldn’t be long before the Chieftains started playing the way he knew they could.
“Fin played that same guy (Rios) weeks later and just blew him out. It wasn’t even close,” Andersen said. “That made me proud.
“Once he got warmed up, he performed extremely well. He led his team and I always talked to him about leading his team. He did it. He played some pretty good No. 1’s and he stuck in there.”
Rawson said Palma struggled before being relegated before this season, but the relegation wasn’t going to hinder his confidence on the possibilities this year brought.
“This year we got relegated and I was just really optimistic about the lineup because we had a really strong team,” Rawson said. “All of our seniors are still here and I thought we could definitely win league, which we did.”
Andersen said the biggest sign of Palma beginning to turn the corner came at the end of last season in a match against Carmel.
“We were at 3-2 with them in the match at Carmel,” Andersen said. “We competed extremely well against them and I kind of knew from there we had a team that was fiery and really wanted to do well and all of our focus was starting to pay off.”
With the team’s play having improved from top to bottom, Andersen highlighted a couple of other key contributors to this season’s success starting with senior Ben Snow.
Snow didn’t play in his freshman or sophomore seasons and as a junior was only a doubles player, but that didn’t stop Andersen from giving Snow an opportunity in singles competition.
“He stepped up to play singles this year and worked on some strategies with his capabilities and he just took off,” Andersen said. “He might be one of the most improved on the team.”
Another player who’s success Andersen marveled at was that of freshman Hudson Wood.
Wood didn’t lose a match all season and Andersen said he expects Wood to…