Tennis needs no translation

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Finding competition is a challenge for Jessica Ho. The Lincoln High School senior was the Pioneer Valley League Player of the Year in tennis last year, so her teammates are not much of a match. To keep Ho on her toes, coach Tim Allen often grabs a racket and tries his luck against his best player. Ho did not say she can beat Allen, but she likes her chances if they ever played seriously. “Probably,” Ho said. “He’s getting older and he’s not that fast. I’d make him run around the court.” Ho also stays sharp by playing against his father, Thanh, who fled his homeland of South Vietnam in the 1960s. Thanh and his wife, Mai, raised three children after finding new home in America. “Tennis has always been in my family,” she explained. “We would always go out and play as a family. I started getting serious in eighth grade because I wanted to play for the (high) school team. “I’m addicted. I just love tennis.” Ho giggled when asked if she is the only student of Vietnamese descent attending Lincoln High. She found it funny because she is often mistaken as being Filipino, Japanese, Chinese or Korean. A trip to visit relatives in San Jose last weekend reminded Ho of her Vietnamese heritage. Her grandparents do not speak English, and Ho understands Vietnamese much better than she speaks it. “I’m not fluent,” she said. “It felt so weird being around people that were only speaking Vietnamese.” Family gatherings are an opportunity for Ho to learn about a country she has visited just once. She was so young during the trip that she remembers little other than the prevalence of poverty. Ho and her best friends at school could form their own version of the United Nations. One of her friends is Filipino, another is Korean and the third is Indian. Their friendship is truly a melting pot. “It’s funny how it worked out,” Ho said. “We have our own multinational, multiracial group right there.” Even some of Ho’s tennis opponents are her friends. She will chat on Facebook with Bear River High’s Lindsay Harter, who defeated Ho in the second round of the PVL championships last year. Ho did not come home empty-handed from the PVL tournament, however. She and senior Jeremy Orteza claimed the mixed doubles title and earned a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section tournament. The two advanced to the section Division III final and ran into familiar foes. They faced Colfax’s Carissa Millanes and Justin Witt, whom Ho and Orteza defeated in the PVL finals a week earlier. Ho and Orteza prevailed in two sets after needing three to beat Millanes and Witt for the league title. Speaking of rematches, Ho faced Harter in the Zebras’ league opener last Thursday in Lincoln and settled a score with a 7-5, 6-3 victory. Harter had the last laugh, however, as Colfax won the match 5-4. That prompted Ho to send Harter a Facebook message that evening. “Good job, Bear River,” Ho wrote. “Get ya next time.” The teams will meet again April 5 in Grass Valley.