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KEVIN SULLIVAN , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Yorba Linda's Rey Lejano is the Register's girls tennis coach of the year.

Girls tennis coach of the year: Rey Lejano, Yorba Linda

STAFF WRITER

Rey Lejano was beginning to run out of coach speak and Yorba Linda hadn’t even sniffed the start of league play.

“I was throwing all the clichés at them,” the Mustangs girls tennis coach quipped. “You know the whole, ‘Take it one match at a time. Momentum starts off small. Keep believing.’”

With eight fresh-faced varsity starters, it’s what you’re supposed to say to a group of girls who played their way to a 3-7 record in its first 10 outings.

The last thing on Lejano’s mind was a CIF championship. The more realistic goal – at the time – was finishing somewhere near the .500 mark.

“Luckily, my girls did not listen to conventional wisdom,” he added. “They believed in themselves and we turned our season around.”

As unlikely as this collection of players seemed at the season’s onset, they quickly turned heads by becoming the first Yorba Linda squad in the program’s seven-year history to advance to a CIF championship.

Being at the forefront of such a turnaround, Lejano has been named the Register’s girls tennis coach of the year.

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2015 All-County girls tennis:

Girls tennis player of the year: Constance Branstine, Villa Park:

All-County girls tennis: First team

All-County girls tennis: Second, third teams

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“I honestly had to take several moments after that CIF final to reflect back on our journey,” Lejano said. “At the beginning of the season, it was exactly how you’d expect it to be. Eight new starters getting used to varsity play – a little shaken – you’d think they’d be discouraged. But incrementally, they got better.”

Following its 3-7 start, Yorba Linda won 11 of its next 12 matches. After capturing its fifth consecutive league crown, the Mustangs bested last season’s quarterfinal appearance with a spot in the Division 3 finale against former league mate, Valencia.

Even after a 12-6 loss to the Tigers in the final, Lejano and assistant coach Kevin Shanahan fielded congratulatory high-fives and hugs from players, parents and administrators, concluding what was a dazzling postseason run for a program that’s on the rise in the county.

“We’re trying to build something at Yorba Linda High School, and making the CIF finals was a breakthrough,” Lejano said. “It’s something that we can look back on and be so proud of. This team really raised the bar in a very positive way, and I’m so proud of my girls.”

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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