Begin a high school sports season with a first-year coach and not enough players to field a team.
Recruit enough players, win the first contest. Lose the coach, who resigns in the middle of a match. Forfeit two games as the team’s future hangs in the balance.
Find a new coach, get back on track, keep practicing. Win more matches, take home a Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League title, win a match in the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section playoffs.
Hollywood could not script a more calamitous season for the Del Norte High girls tennis team.
“Crazy,” senior Taylor Cleland said.
Cleland and her cousin, sophomore Jordan Babich, won the Humboldt-Del Norte doubles championship and went 1-2 in NCS doubles play, a historic event for the Warriors program. As a team, Del Norte finished 5-5 overall, including the forfeiture of two matches after Max Sweeney resigned from the position during the Warriors’ Sept. 11 match against Eureka.
Jane Rumiano, president of the Del Norte Tennis Association and long time girls tennis coach at Del Norte High, was rehired days later and brought community members on to help her run practice.
“For me, I love coaching tennis,” Rumiano said. “I wasn’t really well prepared and I feel bad because the girls didn’t get the Jane Rumiano experience.”
The Warriors had only five players at the beginning of the season but soon added three more. The team, Rumiano says, managed to communicate effectively and support each other despite the lack of competitive experience.
“They changed from being hitters to players,” she said. “They had the skills, but to be able to utilize those skills in a game situation and develop their own strategies.”
And use those strategies to win matches — which, more often than not, Del Norte did.
“I could adjust myself to the skills (of my opponents),” junior Panhia Yang said. “I could change my skills to be able to win.”
Yang, a point guard on the Warriors’ varsity girls basketball team, was recruited by her teammate Babich to play. She had never before experienced competitive tennis but grew to enjoy it.
“The season went well,” Yang said. “I didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it was. Jane was a great coach. I want to play again next year.”