Like most students at MVHS, senior Laura Cao spent years in elementary and middle school dedicated to preparing her mind for the academic strain of high school. Cao also spent those years preparing for something else—tennis. In her freshman year, Cao was able to play on the varsity tennis team.
Cao started playing tennis at the Cupertino Sports Center when she was only six years old. By sixth grade, she had already started playing in local competitive tournaments. From those tournaments, Cao gained valuable experience that enabled her to join the MVHS varsity team. At one of these competition, she met former MVHS coach Gene Fortino who ended up coaching Cao for three years at MVHS.
“The coach actually found me at one of the tournaments in seventh grade,” Cao said. “He was like ‘You’re going to Monta Vista right? You should try out for the team as a freshman’.”
Cao joined a team that had previously won over 50 consecutive matches. However, for most of the regular season, the team struggled and eventually lost their winning streak. Cao looks to that season? as one of the roughest patches in her tennis career.
“We lost to Menlo twice in the regular season, we lost our winning streak,” Cao said. “We lost five matches in the span of three weeks or so at one point so it was disappointing.”
The struggles for Cao and the team, however, were soon over. Their eventual CCS triumph over Menlo and a NorCal title that season affected Cao’s competitive mindset.
“You absolutely need to be able to persevere while playing tennis,” Cao said. “That experience of coming back from a tough season to win NorCal’s was pretty great.”
While Cao’s freshman year was coupled with a great deal of success for the team, the loss of many players to graduation that year forced Cao to adjust to her changing role on the team. In her sophomore and junior year, Cao continued to play as a regular athlete, but in her senior year Cao was named one of the team’s three captains. With college applications and AP classes entering her agenda, Cao feels that the jump hasn’t been easy, but is definitely something she embraces.
This year, the team has a new head coach, Lu Tang. Cao believes that the role of captains has increased substantially from last year in order to help Tang be more acquainted with the school and the players.
“Before it was just choosing uniforms, rides and snacks and that was basically it,” Cao said. “Now myself and other captains are more involved in helping out coach.”
Being a captain has also helped mold Cao into a leader.
“Just being able to handle a lot of stuff at once and being able to lead the team has really helped me both on and off the court,” Cao said.
Now, as the fall season wraps up and with CCS set to begin, Cao is looking to end her high school tennis career on a positive note. From there, she hopes that her time as a captain helps the younger players develop to grow the tennis program at MVHS.
“Our team is definitely not what it was three years ago, but so far I think we have a really great season and things should only get better in the future,” Cao said.