With powerful groundstrokes and smooth footwork, Pinole Valley High junior Stephanie Lin plays a style of tennis that could be put to music.
Perhaps her dad, Haide, who makes and restores violins at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, could select the perfect tune -- with strings attached.
Stephanie Lin found the right pitch in the North Coast Section Division I singles tournament at James Logan, where she beat Amador Valley's Brooke Irish 6-2, 6-2 in the championship match. Lin staved off Albany freshman Allison Chuang 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals.
It was the first section tennis title in Pinole Valley history, which makes Lin a champion and a trailblazer. Thus, she has been selected as Bay Area News Group-East Bay's Player of the Year in girls tennis.
No wonder the Spartans were singing her praises.
"My friends were really excited," Lin said of the reaction at school at her winning the NCS title. "All the teachers that I know and even everyone in the office was saying 'Congratulations. You've done it for your school. You were the first one to win it.' "
After bowing out in the second round at NCS the previous two years, Lin hoped the third time would be the charm. Now she hopes someone else at Pinole Valley will duplicate her feat someday.
Lin agreed that music is a big part of her life, saying it brings "enjoyment and joy" to her family. Starting in junior high, she was in the school band for four years before she bowed out this year in part because of her intensive academic workload. She sees the correlation between tennis and music.
"You could run faster and then suddenly go slower, like music goes," she said. "It speeds up and then it slows down. It kind of reflects how you move out there."
Stephanie's brother, George, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and her sister Suzanne, a member of the UC Irvine club tennis team, both played tennis at Pinole Valley.
Stephanie Lin says tennis is her passion. But it wasn't exactly love at first sight.
She recalls grudgingly first trying the sport, at age 8, at her grandfather's urging during her family's visits to China. Her grandpa, who has since passed away, was a champion player in China.
"He dragged me there the first time I played," she said with a smile. "He was like, 'Oh, you should try it out, it's pretty cool. You're going to get into it.' I didn't like it at first, and he brought me out every day I visited him (in China), and I got into it eventually."