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Tennis is fun for this fabulous Oakmont freshman

Johann Montecillo is 11-0 this season at his ‘hobby’
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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He displays smooth footwork, shuffling left to right, swatting top-spin forehands that just clear the net and find an open spot in the court.

Yes, Christine Mabery and Oakmont High School have a prize on their hands. Hot shots like these don’t come along often.

“In my experience, he’s the first one,” said Mabery, who has coached five years total — two with the Oakmont boys and three with Woodcreek’s girls.

Johann Montecillo is that rare gem. A freshman playing No. 2 singles for Oakmont behind four-year varsity player Taylor Phan, Montecillo is 11-0 this season. A throwback, he plays for the love of the game and flies in the face of today’s year-round one-sport athlete whose parents drop thousands of dollars each year on academies and private coaches seeking a college scholarship and professional riches.

“I’m not that serious anymore; it’s fun,” Montecillo said, adding he loves the high school competition and, in the offseason, practices twice a week, applying an equal amount of swings on his forehand and backhand, serve and return.

Mabery said she rallies with her Oakmont freshmen each spring “to see how good they are.” After exchanging a few balls with Montecillo, she was convinced.

“I said, ‘You don’t need to be in this group,’ ” she said, adding that Montecillo convinced her further after playing an opponent from another school.

“Yeah, he’s very good,” Mabery said Tuesday during a Capital Valley Conference match at Casa Roble. “He thinks very well, and that’s odd. The strategy takes a little bit (of time). Boys just want to hit hard. Shot location is more important. He can hit hard and locate with consistency. He has different strokes. He can execute.”

Montecillo said he started playing about 3½ years ago, after some friends who played arrived from the Philippines. Montecillo liked the sport and got involved in the USTA for about a year, climbing to about No. 13 in the NorCal 12-and-under rankings.

Montecillo said he also took “a couple” private lessons. A natural?

“That’s what one coach told me,” he said Tuesday after dispatching his Casa Roble foe 6-0, 6-1. It took 16 minutes to play the second set. “I guess I just got better, and I liked it more as I got better. I used to play more.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.