Redwood’s dynamic tennis duo sets sights on title run

Redwood’s Huy ‘Dominic’ Nguyen prepares to hit the ball in a tennis dual against Central Valley Christian.(Kason Clark)

Senior Rangers  Huy “Dominic” Nguyen, Jacob Yang aim to ace their final season, plan to compete for the Central Valley title as doubles team

VISALIA – The Redwood boys tennis team has served up a strong start to the season in the West Yosemite League, and seniors Huy “Dominic” Nguyen and Jacob Yang have provided a strong baseline for that success. As they have done throughout their high school careers, Nguyen and Yang have led the Rangers with their strong play on the court and their character off the court.

“Not only are they great technical players, but they’re good human beings, and they bring a lot of leadership,” Redwood head coach Russ Brown said. “I’ll definitely feel a loss when those two leave.”

Both Nguyen’s and Yang’s journey to the top of the Redwood lineup began at a young age. When Yang was 5 years old, his father took him to the tennis court for his sister’s practices. Ever since then, tennis has always meant the world to Yang.

“It’s been a really important and big part of my life,” Yang said. “I’ve been playing for more than half of my life, so it’s important to me that I do well in it, since it’s all I’ve known.”

Nguyen also started tennis at a young age, but he did it on the other side of the globe. Born and raised in Vietnam, Nguyen was first exposed to tennis when he was about 4 years old. He was not initially interested, but after his father took him to a coach, he developed a strong passion for the game.

“It’s a mental battle between the two players on the court,” Nguyen said about tennis. “It’s beautiful because it’s your racquet and a tennis ball, and the other guy on the other side. I also like how independent tennis can be and how it’s up to you to make all the decisions and how every point is an opportunity for you to win.”

Now as they ready themselves to finish up their high school careers, Nguyen and Yang have made it a point to play together as a doubles team. As they look ahead to the postseason, Brown believes they could go on a run in the Central Section Tournament.

“They would be seeded very high in Valley, and there would be an expectation that they could win Valley as doubles,” Brown said. “Individually, they’d still do well, but they’re better together as a doubles team.”

As they hit the courts together this spring, Yang and Nguyen are ready to make some fireworks.

“It’s a lot of fun. I like playing with him,” Yang said. “Nguyen is left handed, too, so it makes life a little easier because the competition is not used to the spin that he gives.”

Yang and Nguyen met each for the first time heading into their freshmen year, during the summer. Growing up, Yang believed his family was the only big tennis family in Visalia; so when he met Nguyen, he was excited to meet another tennis player that matched his skill level.

Both Yang and Nguyen have gone on to have strong careers for the Redwood Rangers. During their freshman year, Nguyen and Yang played as a doubles team together and competed in the Central Valley championships. Over the next couple seasons, they played individually as singles, where they saw further success.

In his sophomore and junior years, Nguyen received the MVP title. This season, Nguyen won the singles championship in the Visalia Tournament after he defeated Yang in a two-hour match. While he was disappointed to be on the losing end, Yang took solace that the title went to Nguyen.

“I enjoyed losing more to him than I would have against any other kid from a different school,” Yang said. “At least I can say, ‘Oh well, I lost to someone from Redwood rather than someone from Sanger or Clovis.’”

Yang has found success as he and Nguyen both won West Yosemite League titles last season. Yang has also received a sportsmanship award for his character on and off the court. Brown has recognized Yang’s leadership as he named him the team captain for the past three years.

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Redwood’s Jacob Yang plays against Central Valley Christian in a tennis dual this past March. (Kason Clark)

“He has shown a lot of maturity,” Brown said about Yang. “Jacob is like a coach on the court. When I put him with anybody in doubles, he can always help make them a better player.”

In his spare time, Yang enjoys building computers and keyboards. After graduating, he plans to attend either UC Santa Cruz or Fresno State to study computer science. He hopes to continue playing tennis either as a club sport or as a walk on in college.

As for Nguyen, he and his family moved to America about six years ago and lived in Tulare for about a year before settling down in Visalia. While his family did not have a hard time in their home country, his parents wanted to give Nguyen and his sisters a new spin on life.

“We moved to America for a better life and to look for new opportunities,” Nguyen said. “One of the incentives to move here was that the public education here is better than the Vietnamese system. Colleges here give you a lot more opportunities as far as careers and jobs go.”

There was an adjustment period after moving across the globe, however. Along with learning English, Nguyen had to pick up the different mannerisms of American life, but now, has adjusted to his new home, where he has grown to love the weather in California and the new people he has gotten to meet.

“There is a diversity of people,” Nguyen said. “It’s great to see different people with different interests and ideas for the next steps in their lives.”

It did take some time for Nguyen to find community through tennis. When they were in Tulare, Nguyen would often only practice with his father. But when they moved to Visalia and began practicing at Plaza Park, Nguyen began to meet more fellow tennis players and make more connections.

In other areas of his life, Nguyen has taken the same approach that has made him successful in tennis. In school, he has aced his academics with a 4.45 GPA. He is involved in Future Business Leaders of America where he placed at state for website design and competed in section in word processing and spreadsheet. He also participates in Key Club, frisbee club and mountain biking club in his free time.

With his strong academics, Nguyen has set himself up well for college as he decides between Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo for software engineering, UC Davis for electrical engineering and UC Santa Barbara for electrical engineering. Wherever he ends up, Nguyen hopes to continue playing tennis if he has the time.

But before either of the two students head off to college, Yang and Nguyen are both looking to go out on a high note. As they look ahead to their final postseason together, Nguyen and Yang are focused on bringing a Central Valley trophy back to Redwood.

“I’m hoping that we can take home the entire Valley championship. I think we have a really good chance at doing that,” Yang said. “We’re probably going to be a top-three seed at least so I would like to see us at least make it to the second day.”

“I want to make history and I want to end on a good note,” Nguyen said. “I believe Jacob and I have a really good chance at winning the whole thing and I’m just looking forward to making some more memories with my teammates.”

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