Sarah Gealer had a relatively small list of things she hadn’t accomplished heading into her final season with the San Marino High girls’ tennis team.
As a freshman, she was named the team’s MVP. Twice she earned co-MVP honors. She helped the Titans win back-to-back CIF division titles. And she was a runner-up twice for the Rio Hondo League singles championship.
About the only thing remaining was the league’s singles crown, which she secured in November by beating teammate Dorothy Tang, 6-3, 1-6, 10-7.
Gealer advanced to the round of 16 matches at the CIF Individuals Tournament and finished her senior campaign with a 42-2 mark, cementing her being voted the All-Area Girls’ Singles Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Pasadena Sun, Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.
“Sarah had such a great year and proved herself to be so match-tough this season,” Titans Coach John Christopher said. “She’s a great striker of the ball and a true champion.”
As San Marino prepared for the start of the season, Christopher used Gealer to demonstrate forehand and backhand drills to the rest of the team.
Christopher, a certified tennis pro and first-year coach with the program, was in awe.
“She really looks like a professional,” he said at the time. “If you were to walk out here and didn’t know enough about tennis, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her and a ranked pro.
“That’s just how hard she hits and how flat and accurate she is.”
Gealer proved to be so dominant, along with Tang, that some opposing schools conceded losing singles and instead paired top individuals to compete in doubles, hoping to challenge the Titans that way.
With her 18-0 individual league mark, Gealer helped San Marino become the first Rio Hondo League team in recent memory to sweep both first and second place in singles and doubles.
Facing Tang for a third straight year in the league singles championship, Gealer earned her first title and added one of the few prizes missing from her high school resume.
“It was like any other match,” said Gealer, who was named the team’s MVP this season. “We’ve played a lot in junior tennis — outside from high school tennis — so it was like any other match. It wasn’t weird.”
The feeling of competing against her longtime friend in Tang may have felt like any other match, but the victory itself, she says, ranks as her biggest of the year.
As far as all-time high school victories go, Gealer said that moment came during her sophomore season against South Pasadena’s Marivick Mamiit.
After losing to her in the league’s individual tournament in 2008, Gealer came back the following year and knocked off Mamiit in a tightly-contest semifinals match.
“Every time I had played her up until then I had I lost,” Gealer said. “She was a senior, so that was the very last time I was going to play her. So that was great that I was able to win in a close match.”
To start their CIF Division II playoff run, the Titans breezed past Trabuco Hills, Chadwick and Santa Monica before falling short in the semifinals against visiting Newport Harbor, 11-7.
That ended San Marino’s season at 22-4 and slashed its bid for a third straight division title.
“Getting to the semis was still a great accomplishment,” Gealer said. “There were a lot of positives from this season. We were able to play in the Dana Hills Tournament since we won CIF the last two years and that gave us recognition. It was a great opportunity because we got to play a lot of the Division I teams and just the bonding experience was great, too.”
At the CIF Individuals Tournament, she advanced to the round of 16. Against Long Beach Millikan’s Cindy Nguyen, however, Gealer lost, 6-2, 6-4.
A five-star recruit who’s ranked in the top-60 by tennisrecruiting.net, Gealer will continue her student-athlete career at the University of Maryland, where she plans on majoring in business.
“It was a great four years and I’ll miss my team and I’ll miss San Marino,” she said. “It definitely went by fast. When you’re actually playing, the season goes by slow. But when you look back on it, it’s like that went by really quickly.”