JSerra's Mary Kaffen returns the ball past Santa Margarita's Tatum Cisakowski during their doubles match on Sept. 22.

Kaffen twins lift JSerra tennis to new heights


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Their record is remarkable.

Perfect would more aptly describe it, being as they've triumphed in every instance throughout the course of their high school careers.

Tennis achievements are not the topic of conversation for JSerra seniors Mary and Zoe Kaffen this recent afternoon, though. Far from it.

Just minutes after the final bell has wrung on campus, the duo is riffing about their unblemished mark when it comes to switching places and attending class for the other.

“When we switch on our teachers - we do it about once a year - they never get it,” Zoe quipped.

“Yeah, we’ve never gotten caught,” Mary added.

Having the ability to pull off such an antic is one of the perks of being identical twins. On this day, the only way to tell the sisters apart is their attire: Zoe is in the white polo, while Mary dons a red sweater vest atop her collared shirt.

Fortunately for their coaches and – at times – teachers, it’s the small subtleties that help differentiate the sisters.

On the court, opposing teams couldn’t care less which sister plays with the blue racket or which one is sporting a specific color visor. Anytime you play JSerra, there’s no getting around the one-two Kaffen combo.

With Mary and Zoe at the forefront of the march, the Lions are off to their best start in school history and threatening to dethrone Santa Margarita from its perch atop the Trinity League standings.

“It’s the deepest team we’ve had, and that’s what makes high school teams is the depth,” said JSerra coach Kirk Orahood. “(Mary and Zoe) have been great... Hopefully we’re not done just because they’re going to be gone at the end of the year. We hope it’s the level that our school has gone to that will attract stronger players to come here even after they’ve left.”

For now, the focus is on the present. Pairing talented junior Jadie Acidera with the Kaffen girls has given JSerra its best opportunity to capture its first league crown.

A recent 9-9 loss to Santa Margarita on games puts the impetus on the Lions to win the teams’ Oct. 8 rematch.

“That one was really disappointing,” Zoe said of the Sept. 22 loss to the Eagles, who have won the last nine league titles. “I think it’ll just make us play better next time. We know the exact day and time. Oct. 8. Three o’clock. Here.”

There haven’t been many downfalls this season for the twins. They ended their summer with a successful showing at USTA National Championships in San Diego and have used that momentum as a springboard for their high school season.

The defending Trinity League doubles champs will be favored to repeat come late October, and could be the county’s best shot at producing an Individuals finalist in December.

“I think we have a good chance to at least get back to the quarters,” Mary said. “Closing out our senior year with a league title would be really awesome though.”

The recruiting trips have also begun for the twins who plan to attend the same university with the intention of keeping the doubles tandem alive for another four years. Trinity University, Carnegie Mellon and St. Mary’s College are three of the frontrunners at the moment.

While the college visits and USTA tournaments keep them busy on the weekends, the weekly focus remains on winning league. And whether it’s playing singles, doubles with another teammate or doubles alongside each other, the Kaffen sisters are about as versatile as they come.

“They don’t squawk about who they have to play with, they just go out there and do it,” Orahood added. “They’re the coolest people to be around. A lot of fun to coach and be around.”

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