Wildcats ace Anjali Mogili is one of the the top players in the Central Coast Section. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Los Gatos High didn’t have a girls tennis coach just days before the start of the season four weeks ago. In stepped Pablo Cueto—an on-campus teacher—to fill the void. 

“It was crazy,” he said. “The other coach had to leave so they needed someone right away. They came to me knowing I have tennis experience. Everything happened so fast, but I’ve enjoyed my time so far and the girls have settled down to play some good tennis.”

The Wildcats entered the week with a 3-2 record in the ultra-competitive Santa Clara League’s De Anza Division. Anjali Mogili, the team’s No. 1 singles player, is rated a three-star recruit by tennisrecruiting.net and a bona-fide college prospect. 

She teamed with then-teammate Yana Guerevich and won the Central Coast Section tournament doubles title as a freshman in the 2018 season before taking her junior year off from the high school season to concentrate on national tournaments, Cueto said. Mogili plays an attacking style and is one of the top players in the section. 

“Anjali is not afraid to come to the net and already shows some leadership by giving constructive comments to her teammates to help them improve,” Cueto said. 

Alexandra Varivoda, the team’s No. 2 singles player, is also a junior circuit tournament player and Cueto hopes to have her as much as possible as she balances that with the high school season. 

“She is a rising player and has the potential to play in college for sure,” Cueto said. 

Yasmina Ikkawi is also a tournament player and has a competitive mindset, Cueto said. He added the one thing Ikkawi needs to work on is her consistency, but that’s the case for most players at the prep level. Yilin Fang earned a win in her singles match against Fremont High-Sunnyvale on Oct. 30, and Disha Chauhan did likewise at No. 4 singles. 

“Yilin has a lot of potential and Disha is like our brick wall and returns almost everything,” Cueto said. “Once she develops more power into her game, she’ll be really good.” 

Nitya Jhamb and Eesha Chugh played No. 1 doubles against Fremont and it happened to be the match of the day, as they prevailed 16-14 in a third-set super tiebreaker. Kiana Behnami and Ava Thompson played No. 2 doubles and Julia Kennedy and Natalia Figueroa played No. 3 doubles, with both teams winning handily. 

“Nitya and Eesha are a dream team in that they’re friends,” Cueto said. “A lot of times that works out with doubles because they encourage each other and lift each other up. They don’t like playing at the net as much as you would like a doubles team to do, but they are working on that.”

Behnami has worked with Thompson and Thimot as her doubles partners this season, depending on the match. Whatever the combination, it’s usually a good one. Kennedy and Figueroa’s skills complement each other well. 

“Natalia has a really strong forehand but needs to work on her consistency, while Julia is more consistent but not as powerful,” Cueto said. 

Emily Lombardi and Mina Nakamura also provide depth on the varsity roster for Los Gatos, which has squeaked out wins against Gunn and Milpitas, with the deciding matches coming down to the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches. 

“Those matches were pretty cool because most of the team stayed and cheered their team on,” Cueto said. 

Cueto has some of the players as students in his class and it’s been a neat experience for him to interact with them in an athletic setting. 

“You build a different relationship because as a coach you’re more of a mentor,” he said.

Yasmina Ikkawi has been one of the stalwarts in the singles lineup for Los Gatos High. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Sports reporter Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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