But Foster’s spirit has lived on this season in the tennis play of Dominic Suarez, who was a sophomore playing in the number-two spot during Foster’s great senior season. Suarez not only followed in Foster’s footsteps to make it to the BVAL championship on April 27, but did him one better by beating his opponent, Antioch High’s John Shu, in straight sets to win the crown – and in fact, didn’t lose a set the entire tournament.
“I definitely dedicated this season to my friend Kraig; I definitely wanted to do this for him,” said Suarez. “I saw him be a leader on the team. I really looked up to him. As much as I wanted this for myself, I wanted that for him because he never got it. I know how hard he worked. He showed me what it takes to be a leader on the team. I’ve got ‘RIP Kraig’ on my letterman jacket. So he will always be remembered.”
Deer Valley tennis Coach Brian Richardson has coached both Foster and Suarez, and sees the spirit of one in the other. “Kraig worked hard, didn’t say much and led by example,” he said. “The last two years Dominic has been leading by example. He’s a great kid. He’s really helped the team. A lot of the guys look up to him. I think my JV team, they really look up to him. It helps them to work harder to try to accomplish some of the things they see him accomplishing.”
Making Suarez’s accomplishment all the more remarkable is that he got a late start. Most tennis players who dominate at this level grew up playing competitive matches for years on club teams before they even reached high school. When Suarez arrived at Deer Valley, not only had he never held a racket; he didn’t even plan to try out for the team.
“I actually got cut off the freshman soccer team. Soccer was my first passion,” he said. “My cousin got me to try out for tennis. Since then I just kept wanting to get better. Very late start. So I’m definitely happy with what I’ve done in the last couple years. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of time practicing, a lot of help from my coach, a lot of tournaments outside of school. Playing year-round definitely helps. I try to play as much as I can whenever I can.”
Last year Suarez, playing in the number-one position, finished third in the BVAL tournament. “So that was really good,” he said. “I had a tough year last year. But it was just a matter of taking time to get used to everything and playing number one. This year I went 14-1. So I was definitely happy about that. I wanted to go undefeated. I had one flat day. That’s part of the game.”
Asked about his strengths, Suarez said, “I just try to be as offensive-minded as I can, but at the same time being patient and using strategy and making adjustments on the court, knowing how to break down my opponents and what makes them tick. My serve, a lot of people have problems with returning my serve.”
Suarez will be competing in the North Coast Section Tournament, which starts today and concludes tomorrow at Santa Rosa High School. Most of the opponents he’ll be playing against picked up their first racket at age 5 or so and have been tearing up the court ever since. But he’s not daunted. “Definitely looking forward to NCS,” he said. “Last year I wanted it really bad, but it didn’t work out. This year I’m definitely ready.”