By Michael Bower
Yolanda Pham is as rare a student-athlete as it gets.
The 15-year-old Del Norte High girls tennis star carries a 4.07 GPA, has skipped two grades and she will be walking the stage with the first senior class at Del Norte High in June.
That in itself is amazing, but add in her ability on the tennis court and Pham is as unique of a high school student as they come.
“She is really bright and super intelligent,” Nighthawks coach Cherise Meoli said. “On top of her tennis performance, she can do it academically.”
Her tennis performance has been nothing short of perfect. Pham capped an undefeated regular season last week, playing doubles for the third time and winning all three matches.
That pushed her overall regular-season record to 33-0. She went 30-0 as a singles player and is undoubtedly the record holder for most wins in a season in the short history of Del Norte High.
For her efforts, Pham is the Rancho Arbolitos Swim and Tennis Club Athlete of the Week.
“There were quite a few matches against Canyon Crest and San Dieguito (Academy) when I was losing and I had to come back to win,” Pham said. “Just knowing that I was undefeated made me keep trying harder to come back and keep trying to win. I just wanted to do well this year because I knew it would be my last year of high school.”
Pham spent most of her time doing gymnastics until she turned 10. She would compete every weekend, but then decided to give it up for tennis. Pham had no need to find a private coach, she had something better — her mother.
“She use to play tennis when she was younger and she played in the Vietnamese Olympics and stuff,” Pham said of her mom, Hong Nguyen. “She has helped me grow. She is the only coach I have ever had.”
Pham helped lead Del Norte to a third-place finish in the Valley League. With No. 1 singles player Kylie Haviland out with an injury, Pham stepped up on the court and as a team captain.
“She has been great and encouraging,” Meoli said. “Yolanda has really been joking around and she loves to have fun out there. I feel like we are a big family and a really close group.”
Said Pham: “I feel like it is important as a team to all be united and get along together. Everybody feels welcome and nobody is left out.”
Pham hopes to continue playing tennis in college, but she understands the importance of academics. She wants to pursue her dream to be a pediatrician and is hoping to attend an Ivy League school or a prestigious UC.
“I am trying to do both tennis and academics in college,” she said. “Maybe one day in the future I can go pro, but I want to focus on academics. Maybe do a little of both.”