Centennial Series: The Derkos winning tradition still thriving


Courtesy of Connor Van Alstyne

First-year Andres Jojoa-Ortega captures the SRJC spirit during a tournament in Modesto.

Ian Macgregor, Deputy Sports Editor

Izzy Derkos knew next to nothing about tennis when Santa Rosa Junior College Athletic Director Bob Mastin offered him the head coaching position in 1970.

Derkos was the SRJC football team’s defensive coordinator at the time and accepted the new challenge head on.

Derkos planned to introduce weightlifting and conditioning programs to the team, ideas that were foreign to tennis players at the time. “Those guys looked at me like I was absolutely insane,” Derkos said.

Two of Derkos’ top three players quit the team after one day of practice. The rest of the team banded together and stuck with Derkos.

Thirty-four years later in 2004, Derkos retired from the tennis program. His teams accumulated a record of 466 wins to 116 losses, including a run of 15 consecutive conference championships from 1988 to 2003.

SRJC produced 62 All-Americans in tennis under Derkos’ reign and more than 80 percent of his players moved on to four-year universities. In 2016, Derkos was inducted into the SRJC Athletic Trust Hall of Fame.

Derkos is not one to boast about his accomplishments as a coach, or those of the teams he led. “The Izzy Derkos time is over,” he said. “I’m very excited to see what the future holds for this great program.”

The Bear Cubs pay tribute to his career by playing their home matches on the Izzy Derkos Courts, hoping to honor his name by continuing the run of success that his teams experienced.

SRJC’s team has done just that this season. The women haven’t had a full roster all season, yet they’ve won seven of 12 matches despite forfeiting points in almost every one.

While the team was still in preseason play, head coach Connor Van Alstyne set forth a goal for the season. “Women are going to have a stronger campaign than in 2017,” Van Alstyne said.

His prediction rang true almost three months later. At the end of 2017, the team stood at 2-6 without a playoff berth. A year later, the team is looking ahead to the playoffs with a record of 7-5, thanks to excellent team play and hard work all season. Second-years Elissa Papale and Mary McCallister qualified for a spot in the doubles portion at the state championships in Ojai, as did second-years Julia O’Keefe and Sandy Yang.

With the lack of players this season the men’s team struggled. At times, they’ve had only four players due to injuries and other problems. First-year Jason Do dealt with shin splints for most of the season. “It was hard to get a full step,” Do said. “I try and play through it if I can.”

The Bear Cubs lost at least two matches due solely to a lack of players, but haven’t let it stop them from competing hard and having fun on the court this season. Second-years Trevor Pinder and Shannon Connell have shone as a doubles team at times, including an 8-0 drubbing of Shasta College’s No. 1 doubles team at the end of February. Pinder and Connell qualified for the doubles portion of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) state championships at Ojai, Calif., on April 25-29.

The most important thing   the Bear Cubs have taken away from the 2018 season is the togetherness they feel. It’s helped grow as teammates and friends. “It’s a really good motivator on the court to have your friends behind you and supporting you,” said second-year Elissa Papale of her teammates.

The Bear Cubs have enjoyed an exciting season in 2018, and will look to carry on the Derkos winning tradition both into playoffs and into the future for this program.