Coach’s Corner – Coach Cal

This year, our Wayne Valley Girls Tennis Team has dominated the court. Led by Coach Calvin Eng, the girls have had an impressive run in this abnormal year. Since all fall sports have been subject to numerous COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 tennis season has a very different feel. The first match of the year was not until September 28th—almost a full month later than normal. In spite of it all, Coach Cal continues to lead these girls to great accomplishments. 

Coach Cal has played tennis competitively for over forty years, and for the past three years, he has been head coach of both the boys and girls tennis programs at Wayne Valley. Before that, he was the assistant varsity coach for the Chatham High School tennis team, which is one of the top high school tennis programs. In addition, Coach Cal has twenty years of coaching collegiate level players under his belt. 

Currently, the team holds a very strong 9-1 record on the year. The group has high hopes for the upcoming state tournament, aiming to continue their winning streak. Since Coach Cal took over in the 2018-19 season, the team has improved every year. Cal remarks, “What I love most about coaching at Valley is being able to help guide, teach, and prepare the student athletes for life after high school.” He has gone above and beyond with this program by developing it for moments of earned success: “Tennis is a great way to learn about competition, but this program I’m creating is about more than just tennis. I want to help them prepare for the competitive world that awaits them.”

The Girls Tennis team has established many traditions for the program, which the players hope to pass down to younger classes. For instance, every season there is an event between both the girls and boys team to bring the whole program together as one. Last year, Wayne Valley held its first annual Tennis Invitational Tournament. As a team, they also go to watch the US Open in Flushing, New York. While that was not possible this year due to the pandemic, Coach Cal explains that the experience of going gives players a chance to “watch and learn from the pros”. Coach Cal also started a tennis family tournament, where a player/parent duo face off against other pairs. He further hints at more events to come: “Maybe a Halloween event is coming?” The tennis program has made many strides, and has had a lot of fun, under the leadership of Coach Cal, and he hopes to gain even more momentum in upcoming years. 

By looking at the record of the Girls Tennis team, it is evident that the roster is stacked with talent. First singles is played by junior captain Liza Kiseleva, and she has dominated all season along with junior captain Maddy Martin at second singles and junior Priya Gohil at third singles. The doubles teams are also extremely strong with Sophomores Jackie Ellis and Jenna Sisto playing first doubles, and juniors Sofia Gorsd and Jaelen Chuang playing second doubles. On the Varsity team, there are also three alternates, Senior Nicole Giardino along with Juniors Nitika Mallick and Katie Seliga, making this 10 player team a very tight-knit group.

In tennis, just like in any sport, the offseason is crucial for player improvement and skill development. Coach Cal emphasizes, “It’s difficult to make major changes during a season. It’s what they do in the off season that matters.” One of his first priorities when it came to this program was to surround these athletes with great coaching. When players improve, the game will become even more enjoyable and fun for all, so to help the players out, he has found coaches from all over the state for the athletes to continue to grow in the offseason. When asked about his method, Coach Cal stated, “I don’t think this approach is unique to tennis”. 

Creating a strong varsity team has many factors involved, and as all coaches do, Coach Cal looks for specific qualities in a player. Not only is athletic ability highly valued, but having the right mindset is crucial to success on the team. Coach Cal sums up what he considers a varsity athlete: “Someone that not only has the techniques of how to hit, but someone that has the mind of a champion competitor. Someone who is willing to work and to fight for every point. Someone who can eliminate distractions and focus on the moment.” He goes on to exclaim that if he can develop a player with these qualities, they will be successful on and off the court. 

Junior captain Maddy Martin describes Coach Cal as “a very fair coach, giving everybody an equal opportunity in tryouts and throughout the season. He is always looking to better the team—constantly giving his own time to help us. He motivates all of us to put the hard work in, and that is why we are doing so well this season!” Junior captain Liza Kiseleva adds that Coach Cal “puts his whole heart into the team. He makes sure that he spends time with every single player and fixes what needs to be fixed before every match”. 

One of the biggest victories of the girls team was a 3-2 win over town rival Wayne Hills. Coach Cal defines this moment as one of his favorites over his time as the head coach: “I don’t know exactly how long it’s been, but I know it’s been a while since Valley has beaten Hills in tennis. Now that we’ve done this, we can focus on other greater challenges like getting deeper into the state tournament.” Another moment he looks fondly upon is when junior Liza Kiseleva beat Wayne Hills in the first singles county final last season, and became the first singles county champion. 

The season of the Wayne Valley Girls Team and Coach Cal cannot go unnoticed; they have put in impressive efforts to obtain their victories. In this program, Coach Cal and the athletes put their heart and soul into every match. Congratulations on such a successful season!