FORT WAYNE – Despite being the No. 1 singles player for four years at South Side, senior Norene Mamani had plenty of doubles partner possibilities over the years. The best bet, though, has always been her father, Sergio.
Mamani’s parents have operated a child-care center in their home for years, which meant having a lot of children around along with the four Mamani children (Norene being the oldest).
It is like having a lot of extended cousins over all the time, Mamani said. The kids grow up with us. Most of them stay with us for a long time of their lives. There is always a lot of activity here all the time.
When it came time to get onto a court and hit tennis balls around for hours and hours, Norene’s game came from Sergio, himself a champion adult tennis player. Norene learned the game from her father when she was 5.
I really loved it, and he taught it well, she said. Mostly it was my dad’s dedication that kept me into it. He plays a lot of tennis. He has been one those sporty dads, and he is very into that.
There have been camps and private lessons at Pine Ridge, but Mamani is essentially a home-grown tennis player. But tennis didn’t really stick in the beginning with Norene, who also participated in soccer and swimming.
When I started, it was fun because I was just playing a sport with my dad, Norene said. I remember I started playing in some tournaments before I was in middle school. That was a lot more competitive than I was used to, but I started getting more serious about it. The competition made it fun, and I improved a lot.
Mamani went 16-3 this season, losing to Bishop Luers’ Natalie Rahrig in three sets in the individual sectional semifinals Tuesday at Homestead.
But the All-SAC player was able to win all seven of her regular-season conference matches.
It was a goal that I had been working toward since my freshman year, Norene said of going undefeated in the SAC. If I was really nervous for a match, I would take some extra hours and train with my dad.
Two of her three losses this year came against fellow Pine Ridge players, Carroll’s Rachel Sutton and Blackhawk Christian’s Morgan Bemisderfer.
We all went through Pine Ridge at some point, Norene said. They probably did it longer than I did.
The next step for Norene will be without tennis as she goes to college as a student only at Brigham Young-Idaho. As her South Side career ends, Norene appreciates what the program did for her.
We don’t have a lot of girls who have formal training as a background, but we have a really good talent and natural athletes, Norene said of South Side. I have grown and gotten a little bit stronger. It has a lot to do with just growing up and learning each year from being on the team.