New coach finds winning formula with Valencia girls tennis

Valencia girls tennis coach Jackson Boxall began coaching the varsity team just two weeks into the season. Cory Rubin/The Signal

At the start of the Foothill League girls prep tennis season, Jackson Boxall was a JV coach at Valencia. By the end of the season, he had coached a varsity doubles team to a Foothill League title.

On Thursday at the Paseo Club, Brenna Whelan and Sydney Thay beat West Ranch’s Chase Eisenberg and Brooke Johnston 6-4, 6-3 in the Foothill League doubles championship.

The two had played singles up until Friday when they teamed up to compete as a doubles squad for the league finals. 

“We started practice with them on Monday and they looked like two singles players playing doubles together,” Boxall said. “But as the week went on they looked more and more like a solid doubles team and I think that’s how they got the win today.”

Valencia doubles pair Sydney Thay (left) and Brenna Whelan return a volley at the Foothill League Finals at the Paseo Club in Valencia Wednesday morning. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Just like it took time for Whelan and Thay to mesh, it took some time for Boxall to get adjusted to being the new head coach, a job he wasn’t expecting.

Two weeks into the season, the prior head coach had accepted another job and could no longer coach at Valencia. Boxall, who was at the time the JV coach, was thrust into the varsity head coach position.

“The old coaches really trusted me with what I was doing with the girls on JV that they gave me the position on varsity,” Boxall said.

Boxall himself was playing prep tennis for Valencia not that long ago. In 2018, Boxall won the Foothill League doubles title as a senior playing alongside Stephen Thay. 

“It’s very weird,” Boxall said of being at the league finals as a coach. “I’m very humbled to have this opportunity to coach here. I’m looking forward to being back next year as well.”

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Since he was a student-athlete at Valencia just two seasons ago, he was friends with some of the varsity players he now had to coach. For example, Whelan was a sophomore when Boxall was a senior for the Vikings.

The prior friendships and the coaching shuffle at the beginning of the season had been a small obstacle in establishing solid player/coach relationships.

“It was a little difficult at first because last year we had a set coach and then at the beginning of the year we had some back and forth, but Jackson has been great,” Whelan said. “He’s really helped us, he’s been there for us and he’s done what it’s taken to get here. I’m grateful he’s been around and helping us.”

Boxall and his league-champion doubles team will head to the CIF-Southern Section team playoffs, which begin with wild card matches on Nov. 5 before the first round begins on Nov. 6. They’ll also compete in the individual sectionals on Nov. 25.

“We’re just going to work hard, really hard for next Wednesday,” Boxall said. “I’m hoping that we have a home match, but you know, all the girls worked really hard this season and I’m proud of all of them.”

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