By Bill Tamburrino
When this reporter was coaching, the highest compliment that he could pay an athlete was a simple statement: “He or she loves the game.” Athletes who truly love a game never have to say so. They show their love for the sport by the way they play, practice and respect the game. They show their love for the game by their demeanor, conduct on and off the playing surface, and their sportsmanship before, during and after the competition.
Dayna Lake loves the game. She has since she took up tennis in fifth grade when her big sister, Jillian, went out for the team at Ramona High. She has played soccer in recreation leagues but in seventh grade she made a commitment to the court.
“I had played in some tournaments before that, but in seventh grade I decided that I wanted to make the varsity team at Ramona my freshman year, so I started playing in satellite tournament,” said Dayna.
In tennis, there are three levels of tournaments: novice, satellite and open. Dayna has graduated to the open tournaments when she is not playing for the Lady Bulldogs. After making the varsity team, Dayna took lessons and attended as many camps that she could to improve her game. She often plays against male competition. Her number one male opponent is her current beau, John Shupe. When asked who wins those matches, Dayna just grinned.
Dayna works on her game at least 10 hours a week the year-round. The rest of the time she studies. She has accumulated a 4.6 grade-point average in honors and advanced placement classes and she hopes to go to college and become an architect.
She puts in more time hitting the books than she does hitting the tennis ball. She plans to do both in college.
“A lot of aspects (of tennis) appeal to me,” she said. “Tennis pushes me to excel, work hard and do my best. When I go on the court, it is up to me. It is all on me. There are no excuses. I am a very independent individual and tennis allows me to be that way. It helps me improve my skills and mental toughness.”
Dayna is not only mentally tough, she is physically tough. Last season she tried to play through a very serious leg injury. Most people would have had to use crutches to walk, yet Dayna continued playing until the doctor put her on the DL (disabled list).
Dayna has played the best competition in the Palomar League and has gone 26-14. She has won all three sets in five matches and has only gone 0-3 once.
Dayna doesn’t play with her sister often, but she does play with her dad, Marty. When asked if her mom, Valerie, who is her biggest fan plays, Dayna just chuckled and said,” I wish.”
Dayna plays singles but loves the team aspect of RHS tennis.
“Coach (Doug) Failla is a great coach,” she said. “...It is an individual sport, but we are like one big family. This year’s team is closer than any team so far.”
“She works extremely hard and is a fierce competitor and a top-notch player,” Failla said of Dayna. “She is a pleasure to coach. She epitomizes what this program is all about. She has a great attitude. Her sportsmanship is excellent. Tennis is a great sport that one can play one’s entire life. It builds character, and the values and lessons learned can be carried over into all aspects of life.”