Amber Lee started playing tennis when she came to Costa Mesa High as a freshman.
Lee had humble beginnings, starting out at the No. 3 doubles spot on the junior varsity team.
Costa Mesa has improved, and so has Lee’s game. Three years later, she is the Mustangs’ only senior starter and a co-captain along with her partner at No. 1 doubles, junior Alexis Votran.
“I would say it’s been an incredible journey,” Lee said.
The Mustangs can say the same as a team. They moved into outright first place in the Orange Coast League after Tuesday’s 10-8 victory over Calvary Chapel at Costa Mesa Tennis Center.
Laguna Beach had won the league in each of the 12 years since it was formed in 2006, going a combined 112-0. This year, though, the Breakers moved to the Wave League of the Sunset Conference. That opened the door for other teams to contend for the Orange Coast League crown, and Costa Mesa has responded early in the season.
Costa Mesa (8-2, 3-0 in league) has won seven straight matches overall. This was also the first time during Lee’s time with the program that the Mustangs have beaten Calvary Chapel (3-5, 2-1). Costa Mesa, which finished fourth in the league last year, is trying to advance to the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“We do want it really bad,” said Votran, who like Lee is in her third season on varsity. “We’re really happy that we’re winning and we’re proud of it. We’ve all been working really hard, and it’s rewarding. This year is the most close-knit that we’ve ever been.”
Calvary Chapel, which finished second in the league last year, got a sweep at No. 1 singles by senior Adrienne Dwyer. Senior Ashley Fabella and junior Deborah Barnes also swept at No. 1 doubles. But the Mustangs’ depth won them the match.
This is the first time any of these girls have beaten Calvary, so I think that gives them a lot of confidence, too. And they have great team chemistry.
The Costa Mesa doubles teams of Lee and Votran, junior Megan Tran and freshman Sophia Catania, as well as juniors Jasmine Au and Erin Rodriguez, each won twice. Hallie Tran won twice in singles, while Leslie Delgado and Rachel Pham each won once.
Delgado, Tran and Pham, all juniors, have been successful for the Mustangs. Ryan Broccolo, in his third year coaching the team with his wife, Meg, said that Delgado is 23-4 in singles this season, while Pham is 16-2 and Tran is 20-10.
“They’re all confident, but they’re so nice and modest,” Broccolo said. “This is the first time any of these girls have beaten Calvary, so I think that gives them a lot of confidence, too. And they have great team chemistry. They’re doing team bonding drills, without us even telling them. Almost all of them hang out off the court. What a great group.”
Tran had a key 7-5 win over Calvary Chapel’s Hallie James in the first round at No. 2 singles. And Au and Rodriguez came back from a 3-0 deficit to top Joyce Chen and Milan McGowan 6-4 at No. 3 doubles. Costa Mesa took a 4-2 lead in sets that it wouldn’t relinquish, as the teams each won three sets in the second and third rounds.
“Estancia, Costa Mesa and us always fought for second [place in the league],” said Calvary Chapel coach Tim Linn, in his 21st year. “Everybody was always fighting for second, and now everybody’s kind of fighting for first. It’s kind of fun … You have to win at No. 3, and that’s why [the Mustangs] beat us.”
Costa Mesa hosts Saddleback on Thursday before traveling to rival Estancia on Oct. 2. The first of two Battle for the Bell matches will also conclude the first half of league play.
The Mustangs want to keep their winning ways going.
“It’s a big deal for our school,” Votran said.