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Brenda Guan wants to restore championship tradition as new Iowa City West girls’ tennis coach
‘I see that potential in West High, but I also see a lot of complacency’
IOWA CITY — Brenda Guan knows all about Iowa City West’s girls’ tennis tradition.
The first-year coach said that aura has faded in recent years.
“I don’t think this program has fulfilled its fullest potential in the last 15 years, especially when you consider the resources and opportunities the players in this town enjoy,” she said. “Coming from a championship-winning program in college, I see that potential in West High, but I also see a lot of complacency.”
Guan, who played at Ankeny Centennial before moving on to Grinnell College, credited longtime West coach Kay DiLeo for building West into a power in the mid-2000s, but said the program, although solid, has not really performed to that level since.
“I used to drive one hour down and back every day to West Des Moines just to play at an indoor facility over the winter months,” Guan said. “Iowa City players live with the (Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center) and all its resources in their backyard. To have only one team title since 2007 is not good enough.
“Iowa City should be churning out high-level (NCAA Division III and Division I)-caliber players left and right.”
West is coming off a rough season that saw coach Amiee Villarini placed on administrative leave after many of the team's top players from the 2021 Class 2A state runner-up team elected not to play, citing harassment and bullying tactics on Villarini's part. Those charges were found to be without merit after an investigation by the Iowa City Community School District.
Ann Burnett took over the team and Guan, who is an assistant tennis professional at the North Dodge Athletic Club along with studying for her doctorate at the University of Iowa College of Law, came on as a volunteer assistant.
“I was there as a volunteer last year through the aftermath of it all, mostly to support Ann when she was asked to fill in as the interim coach,” Guan said. “But I really hold onto the fact that I was an outsider looking in and someone who can be a fresh face for this program.”
The fresh face Guan brings will come with high expectations for her players.
“I can also tell these girls are excited for the clean slate I offer,” she said. “Going into the season, I want to see a commitment from each player who makes the varsity team to create success on a group level.”
For example, she is requiring all her players to attend at least one Iowa match this season, citing the fact the Hawkeye players show what it is like to fight for their teammates and coaches.
“My hope is my players will seek to follow their example and learn from their shortcomings to become better teammates and leaders themselves,” she said.
West has a tough test in its opener, hitting the road against No. 2 Cedar Rapids Washington on Friday. Guan said she likes what she has seen so far from her players.
“It feels like every week I get an email from school staff saying another school group or club has qualified for some prestigious statewide or even national event, and I know better now than to be surprised when a player’s name is on the list,” she said. “These girls are obviously highly driven to succeed in all their endeavors, and that excites me because of the connection between on- and off-court success.”