No program, no full season, no problem.
Trinity Knights tennis duo Aubrey Kua and Katelyn Waugh defied the odds and reached the CIF Individual tournament last week.
Kua and Waugh attend Trinity Classical Academy, which does not currently offer tennis. The two still embarked on a season, taking on every invitational and tournament invite they could.
The Knight duo was able to reach the CIF sectionals as a freelance team due to their solid United Tennis Rating. Kua and Waugh tore through the qualifiers and entered their third match of the day without dropping a set.
Kua and Waugh defeated duos from Mt. Baldy and Sunkist 6-0, 6-0, before taking on the second seeded-Palm Desert sister duo of Leyla and Sheyla Rizvanbegovic. The Knights were pushed a little further but prevailed 6-2, 6-2, punching their ticket to the CIF individual sectionals at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center in Claremont.
The doubles squad posted a great day in pool play as Waugh consistently served and returned every ball well while Kua didn’t double fault in any of her matches.
The team is typically coached by someone who knows Aubrey better than most, her brother Dustin Kua.
“When I started with them last year, they played this same tournament but lost in the qualifying round,” Dustin said in a phone interview. “They’ve worked very hard this year and improved with their technical things and net play, but the biggest thing was they got closer. Their friendship grew and I think that pushed them forward this time around.”
Dustin is a Trinity alumnus also who played in the CIF individual sectionals.
Trinity’s duo fell in its opening round to one of the toughest teams they played all year: the Los Osos Grizzlies’ top duo of Alexis Vo and Jodean Milan, the No. 1 team from the Baseline League.
Kua and Waugh played one of their best sets when they needed it most and won the first game, 7-5. Los Osos was quick to respond and battled back with 6-2 victory in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker.
The Grizzlies jumped out first to a 3-0 lead but the Knights never wearied and answered with three straight points to tie. Trinity trailed again but refused to go away. The Knights fought and earned an 8-7 lead in the set. However, with their backs against the walls, the Grizzlies fired off three straight points to win and advance with the 10-8 victory.
Dustin was unable to go to Claremont with his duo but assistant coach Steve Yu was able to make the trip and saw his team play lights-out.
“Katelyn’s backhand return was really, really good, like bullets,” Yu said in a phone interview.
“Aubrey was getting to balls where we thought there was no way she’d get to them. She did really well and her hands were so quick. They were happy to be there. Obviously, you wanna come out with a win but they did the best they could. You take it and learn for the next time.”
The two have always complemented each other’s games and styles of play on top of being close friends off the court
“When they’re on the court, not only do they enjoy themselves and tennis, but when it’s time to do specific drills or go over tactics, they never complain,” Dustin said. “They’re very eager to learn. It’s been a great experience for me just to see them grow.”
Coach Kua was both surprised and not surprised to see his team reach the Individual championships.
“No, I’m not surprised. Last year they were so close to qualifying and I was confident they could keep improving,” Dustin said. “But yes, I’m surprised because of how difficult the opponents were this year in Southern California. I’m happy they had a very close chance.”
The Knight team trains twice a week with Dustin and stayed busy in their “season” with numerous tournament wins, including winning their bracket of the Tracy Austin Doubles Tennis Tournament. The two were able to meet the former US Open champion after their tournament win.
Waugh will graduate from Trinity in 2024 but Aubrey, a sophomore, has plenty of varsity tennis ahead of her. The duo fell just short of a banner but their tennis careers may just be getting started.
For Dustin, seeing his team reach this new zenith showed how much the duo put in.
“There’s over 500 teams in the Southern Section. It’s just a testament to their hard work and their enjoyment for the game,” Dustin said. “Out of 500 teams, it’s something that’s pretty amazing.”