MENTONE — I had two people in mind when I showed up at Redlands East Valley’s tennis facility back on April 2.
Where would REV coach Ed Stark be hanging out?
Sean Comadena, Redlands’ longtime coach, could be spotted almost anywhere.
Roving coaches are the rule at prep matches. They’re everywhere. Coaching, counseling and calming — especially in the big matches.
Not only was this a big match, a lengthy streak of Redlands domination over REV was on the line. This would be a big step toward a Citrus Belt League championship.
They would add perspective, history, motivation and inspiration —anything about their players that would add color to this match.
Play was electric. Excitement and drama. Total school spirit. Emotion. REV hadn’t beaten Redlands in years.
I circled REV’s entire facility twice. No sign of Comadena. Or his trusted RHS lieutenant, James Verhoeven. Strange.
Chatted with Stark, still perhaps stinging from that narrow loss to Laguna Beach the previous spring’s Div. 4 championship. Still excited, though, that he’d prepared his players to beat Redlands.
Still no sign of Comadena or Verhoeven.
On tap was an epic Terrier/Wildcat showdown. Clutch play on both sides. Tyler Davis, REV’s No. 1 singles player, bound for Point Loma in San Diego, wiped out his three opponents, 6-0 each.
The Terriers had fight in them. Comadena instills that rock-‘em, sock-‘em mentality. Fight for each point. Battle each shot.
Brenton Holbeck and Stark’s son, Matt, had far more force facing them at No. 1 doubles. Redlands’ doubles, Christian Lensang and Kant Krittayaweth, battled each of REV’s duos.
Strange, though, that Comadena wasn’t performing his now-patented nervous pacing between matches.
Stark has been waiting for this moment ever since he’d been assigned as REV coach a handful of years ago.
He, too, was coaching and motivating. And pacing.
Tennis rarely gets its spotlight moment with other glittering sports taking place around the area.
This was a spotlight moment. Redlands was down and REV was chasing. Anyone that believes there’s no rivalry between these two campuses is living in, say, Barstow. Or further out.
No one relishes those moments more than Comadena. I’ve known him since he played Terrier tennis and later played a stalwart collegiate career at the local university.
Took over the Terriers when longtime Redlands coach Ken Whitmer left for the Wildcats upon REV’s 1997 campus opening.
Comadena might be the most decorated and successful coach around — any sport. He’s coached both boys and girls, leading the Terriers to bagfuls of both league and individual championships. Make it five combined CIF titles, counting four boys’ and a girls’ championship, plus a streamload of players making it deep into CIF individuals.
He’s a math teacher that can add all those achievements better than anyone.
There’s a string of playoff wins a couple pages long. Count a trio of CIF runner-up finishes (two girls, one boys) in among those CIF championships. Players, some of whom transfer in, head for college to study and play tennis.
That’s a true program.
So where was Comadena at this REV-Redlands showdown? On my third trip around the courts, I came upon a Redlands JV player.
“Where’s your coach? Where’s coach Comadena?”
The kid smiled politely. He tried to be kind.
“Coach retired from coaching. We have a new coach.”
All of a sudden it hit me. No wonder I couldn’t find him.
Kevin Tavoc, a Comadena player from previous years, got the coaching call.
REV won that match, 10-8. A smallish senior, Alex Strong, won the Wildcats’ 10th point. Clutch. The kid was a hero.
On the rematch, Redlands prevailed, 9-9, after an insane set of tiebreakers to crack the deadlock. The Citrus Belt League was a dead heat between a pair of clutch teams.
Comadena, now a non-coach, was watching from a different vantage point.
Michael Pfeiffer, Redlands’ athletic director, explained further. Comadena wants to watch his son, Jansen, play college tennis down Interstate 10 at Pomona-Pitzer College. You have to have more than a “game” to make the grade there, folks. Your SAT has to be above 30.
Said Pfeiffer: “Sean will be coaching our girls in the fall.”
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