She Finds Even Tennis Has Its Share of Grit


Alexis Brown thought tennis wasn’t gritty enough. It was fine for some, like her grandparents, but she wanted more excitement.

Soccer and softball, now those were sports, and Brown spent her youth working up a sweat in those games.

“Tennis just seemed too pretty, too nice,” Brown said. “I thought it was boring. I liked sports where there was contact, where you got dirty.”


Her attitude hasn’t changed, just her sport.

Brown, a junior at UC Irvine, has found ways of expressing herself in tennis. Though she never played the sport until her freshman year at Ventura Buena High, she has developed to the point where she is more than competitive as an NCAA Division I player.

Brown, the Anteaters’ No. 5 singles player, is 9-10 this season, giving her the team’s best won-loss record. She also has an 8-9 record as a doubles player.

Not eyebrow-raising numbers. Still, considering her late start in the sport, she has come far.

Brown played soccer and softball for nine years while growing up. Her grandparents, though, kept pushing her toward tennis.

“They would tell me it was a sport I could play my whole life, even when I was old,” Brown said. “They played their whole lives.”

Almost on a whim, she decided to give it a try in high school. Soccer didn’t start until the winter and softball was in the spring. She had time in the fall for another sport.


Brown said she signed up having never picked up a racket in her life.

“I borrowed a friend’s because I decided I better go out and see if I could really play,” Brown said. “It was just like hitting in softball.

“No one knew who I was and I made the varsity, which was pretty cool.”

Brown gave up softball and soccer after her sophomore year at Buena to focus on tennis.

She chose Irvine for academic reasons--Brown is a psychology major--but, by then, tennis was too big a part of her life to give it up. She came out for the Anteater team, then injured her back.

It took six months of therapy to recover. Brown used it as her redshirt season and was back playing in the fall. She finished 6-13 as a singles player last season, but was 2-8 as the team’s No. 5 player.

Brown, who is one of the team’s captains this year, has improved considerably, according Coach Mike Edles. The March 28 match against San Jose State came down to Brown and Amber Christiansen’s doubles set. They won, giving Irvine a 4-3 victory.

“Everyone else had finished and all the girls were sitting around yelling for us,” Brown said. “It was pretty exciting.

“Tennis is a lot more challenging than I thought. It’s really mentally tough. It certainly wasn’t as easy as it looked. Now, I can’t imagine myself not playing.”



Bryan Contreras shaved seven seconds off his season-best in the 1,500 meters (3 minutes 56.55 seconds) Saturday in the Anteaters’ track and field meet against UCLA, Houston and Cal State Northridge.

He wasn’t alone in lowering his time.

Heather Perrin (58.66 in the 400 hurdles), Jo-Jo Yaba (4:37.88 in the 1,500), Popi Edwards (24.69 in the 200) and Robert Frichtel (1:52.03 in the 800) all had season-best times in the meet.


Steve Tallakson, the top player on the men’s tennis team, is ranked 90th in the nation in the Rolex/ITA rankings. Irvine (9-7), which has won seven of its last nine matches, is ranked 55th.


Basketball Coach Pat Douglass had a busy week last week.

Douglass, who led Cal State Bakersfield to a third NCAA Division II championship this past season, was still basking in that glow. He autographed T-shirts at a Bakersfield mall on Thursday, with highlights of the Roadrunners’ title-game victory over Northern Kentucky shown at a mall movie theater later that day. On Friday, he was off to Salt Lake City for a speaking engagement.

On the Irvine front, he landed Ben Jones, a 6-foot-7 forward from Sonora High. Jones shot 56.3% from the field and 45.5% from three-point range last season.

Outside shooting was a skill the Anteaters desperately lacked last season, when they finished 1-25. Irvine shot 41.6% from the field as a team.



Coming Attractions

Here’s a look at key games for UC Irvine this week:

* Track and field competes at the Mt. SAC Relays Friday and Saturday. The Anteaters also compete at the Pomona Invitational Friday.

* Men’s tennis hosts San Diego State 1:30 p.m. Friday.

* Women’s tennis hosts Cal State Northridge today and Cal State Fullerton Thursday. Both matches begin at 1:30 p.m.

* Men’s volleyball concludes its season against UCLA at 7 tonight in the Bren Center.