Alec Horton knows the expectations for the Laguna Beach High girls’ tennis team.
Sure, the school may be the smallest public high school in Orange County, but in girls’ tennis, the Breakers are up in the mighty CIF Southern Section Division I.
Plus, Laguna Beach has won a title in said division as recently as 2005. Not a bad gig.
“If one day we could ever get to the point where we could be back winning a Division I championship again, it’d be great," said Horton, 39. “That’s the goal, anyway, and I think the girls get that. This year, we have a very solid team, but there’s so many good teams out there."
Horton is the Breakers’ new girls’ tennis coach, taking over for Jimmy Gleason. But the walk-on, a Lake Forest resident, is certainly no stranger to Orange County tennis. He’s the Saddleback College men’s tennis coach, and has also coached at the University of Nevada, Cypress College and Orange Coast College.
With the elimination of the association rule last year, Horton, who has also had a tennis academy at Mission Viejo Country Club, could work with kids year-round. That made being a high school coach a more attainable goal.
“I’m looking to do some really good things here," Horton said. “We’ve got a lot of really good kids, great families and serious players."
He gets high marks from the Breakers’ talented group of players, from senior Maddie Jaeger to freshman Taylor Nederlander.
“He’s super-organized," said Jaeger, a four-year varsity player. “He’s pretty intense but not overly intense, so it’s a nice mix."
And, with the Breakers’ nice mix of talent, she also anticipates a good season. Last year, Laguna Beach won the Orange Coast League for the third straight year and lost in the Division I quarterfinals to eventual champion Dana Hills.
“I’m excited," Jaeger said. “It should be nice. We’ve got a lot of new talent on the team so we’ll probably do better than we did in previous years."
Nederlander, the freshman, is part of that. Last month she made it to the Round of 64 at girls’ 14s nationals in Georgia, and her national ranking has increased all the way to 218 in the division.
Laguna will be without one player in junior Alex Tachovsky. Last year’s top singles player is training at the Evert Academy in Florida this year and playing in International Tennis Federation events.
Still, the Breakers boast several other key returners like junior Haley Moss and sophomore Lauren Michaels, who won the league doubles title last year. Claire Jaeger, a sophomore, is another key player.
“I think it’s going to be really good," Moss said. “There’s more structure, and we have a lot of players who are really good who will bring our playing level up."
There are three other seniors in Alison Azera, Francis Lydon and McKenna Nokes, who is also running cross country for Laguna this fall. Lydon is a top doubles player who transferred from St. Margaret’s, which won the CIF Division IV title last year.
Bianca Sganga, Lia Berger and Monika Prokes are all juniors who will help the Breakers, as will sophomore Kate McMahon.
The Orange Coast League has typically been smooth sailing for Laguna Beach, but the Breakers have a challenging nonleague schedule. They open against another Division I powerhouse, Palos Verdes, on the road on Sept. 8 and then face a pair of CIF champions in St. Margaret’s (Sept. 10) and Dana Hills (Sept. 15).