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Bakkila motors Harbor's fast start

Sailors junior has had success, but she's all about the team. She led Newport Harbor to two big victories last week.

September 17, 2010|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Blake Bakkila just got her driver's license after turning 16 last month.

It makes sense, then, that she revels in her role as the sparkplug for the Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team.

Bakkila, a junior, has perhaps the most prominent spot on the team since she plays No. 1 singles. Yet that number means little to Bakkila and her teammates; every Sailor is valuable.

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"On our team, we don't really discuss the numbers," said Bakkila, the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.

Bakkila, though, had a couple of impressive numbers after her team routed Sage Hill, 16-2, on Tuesday. She started the year off 7-2 in singles.

Another impressive number last week for the Sailors was two. They pulled off two upsets in their first two matches, beating Laguna Beach then Northwood by identical 11-7 scores.

Coach Kristen Case calls Bakkila the ultimate team player. More often, she calls her "Blakers."

"The most awesome thing about Blake is that she's just so passionate," Case said. "She's passionate about the sport of tennis and she's passionate about her team. I'd say that's my favorite part about coaching her, that she absolutely loves her team. Every time she gets on the court, she wants to win for herself but more for them."

Tennis has always been a big part of Bakkila's life. She's been playing since she was 5 years old, and competitively since she was 10. She followed after her mother, Corey, who also played for Newport Harbor and was also a No. 1 singles player before graduating in 1986.

"I didn't really want to play anything else," Blake Bakkila said. "I wasn't really into the contact sports."

It's an athletic family. Younger sister Baylee, a seventh grader at Ensign Intermediate, also plays tennis. Her father, Victor, did go the contact sport route, playing water polo at University High and later at Saddleback College and Fresno State.

Blake has long been a tournament tennis player, but she thrives in the team atmosphere that high school provides. Her freshman year at Harbor, she was a substitute player. Last year, she played at No. 3 singles, but was steady enough to get plenty of sets against other teams' No. 1 and No. 2 players.

"I'm enjoying all the playing time I'm getting," Bakkila said. "I think being on the team has really helped me as a player, and I credit Kristen and the rest of my teammates … The bond between us is unbreakable. We're so together. We're always here for each other."

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