Sister acts dot the girls' tennis scene throughout Orange County, but they're not like the one at Los Alamitos High, where Danielle Gardiner, 24, coaches her 17-year-old sister, Dana Brandlin.
Gardiner, a 1997 graduate of Los Alamitos, is in her second season as the Griffins' coach. She has been her sister's tennis inspiration and mentor longer than that.
"I always played soccer and ran track and I never really started playing tennis until high school," Brandlin said. "People say I learned it by osmosis from just watching her play. Tennis just kind of happened. It comes pretty natural."
It should, according to Gardiner.
"I guess we dragged her along to all the tournaments that I played," she said. "She's just a natural athlete. You just teach her the game, and she does it. Back when I was growing up, whenever I didn't have anyone else to hit with, I'd put her at the net and slam balls at her. Dana has no fear."
Brandlin, among five seniors for Los Alamitos, plays No. 3 doubles with freshman Jocelyn Liu, but Gardiner considers her sister one of the Griffins' best doubles players. Other top players include senior Gia Nafarrete and sophomore Brandy Andrews in singles, and the doubles team of senior Megan King and junior Irene Chen.
Los Alamitos (11-5, 6-1) claimed the upper hand in the Sunset League race with victories over defending champion Huntington Beach Edison and Fountain Valley last week.
After finishing 19-3, winning the Sunset League title and advancing to the Southern Section Division I quarterfinals last year, Edison has been a victim of inconsistency and inexperience this season.
The Chargers (7-9, 3-4) tied Santa Margarita and Fountain Valley, 9-9, in sets, but lost to both on games. They also lost to Irvine Northwood, 10-8, and to Huntington Beach, 11-7.
Jessica Rice (29-14) and the doubles team of seniors Lauren Boyer and Katie Pitchford (42-2) have been bright spots.
Senior Mahtab Davat has improved steadily throughout a high school career, during which she did not play as a freshman and barely made the junior varsity team as a sophomore. She plays No. 3 singles now.
But the Chargers' efforts have not been enough to overcome the inexperience of the rest of the team, which lost eight players to graduation.