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Difference-makers: Ginny Barnett left a lasting imprint on tennis in the Santa Maria Valley
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Difference-makers

Difference-makers: Ginny Barnett left a lasting imprint on tennis in the Santa Maria Valley

When the Santa Maria girls tennis team’s 2014 season came to an end, so, too, did one of the longest coaching runs in the Central Coast.

Ginny Barnett coached tennis for 32 years, the last 23 of them at Santa Maria High School. She was inducted into the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table (NSBCART) Hall of Fame in 2019. This year's Hall of Fame class and induction ceremony was canceled due the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I love the girls,” she said at one point during the 2014 season. “It’s the off-court stuff,” that brought about her decision to retire from coaching.

“Fundraising is very complicated, especially at a school like Santa Maria,” which has many students from lower-income families.

“The off-court stuff has taken a lot of the fun out of it. It’s not like the old days when you showed up and coached.”

During her decades of coaching, Barnett said, she had grown so close to so many players and so many teams that she said, “I can’t really single out any one favorite highlight. I have a lot of them.”

Two highlights of Barnett’s coaching career on the Central Coast, which also included a stint as the Hancock College women’s coach, do stand out.

Barnett’s 2002 Santa Maria squad tied Santa Ynez for the Los Padres League title - that was the Saints’ first year in the league; they had played in the old Northern League before then - for the only share of a league title a Saints team earned during her time at Santa Maria.

The Saints went on to the CIF Southern Section divisional final, losing 16-2 to San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s at the Claremont Club.

Before the Saints took on St. Margaret’s, Barnett recalled, “The coaches introduced their players. I introduced my team, and then their coach introduced their team.”

Barnett chuckled. “The coach knew his players’ first names, but not their last names. They were all country club players. None of my players played club.”

To get to the final, Santa Maria defeated Los Padres League rival Lompoc in the semis at the Minami Center.

“The semifinal drew all kinds of fans, all kinds of media,” said Barnett.

“The place was packed. Administrators from both schools showed up. It was crazy”

Ginny Barnett’s 2003 Hancock squad made it to the Southern California Regional final before bowing out.

That team included Ginny Barnett’s daughter, Carly, and several other players who were prominent on the local high school scene, including the former Lori Robles, the former Claire Lozano and Monica Krier.

Robles and Lozano graduated from Santa Maria. Krier graduated from Righetti.

Lozano and her doubles partner, Sascha Conrad, went undefeated during the regular season. They recovered from being upset in the league tournament to lead Santa Maria last Lompoc in the divisional semis.

“It’a hard to beat any doubles team three times in a row,” said Barnett.

Besides tennis, Barnett said she also coached volleyball and softball at Fresno Roosevelt High School from 1989-91.

“We made it to the Central Section divisional tennis final one year, losing at Fresno State, and I was voted Coach of the Year in our league two out of three years,” said Barnett.

“I was young and cocky went I got here. After I got to Santa Maria we didn’t win a match until my third year here.”

Barnett said, “it was humbling. I figured out that God was telling me (coaching) wasn’t about the wins and losses. It was about working with these young ladies and being an influence for them.”

Though she made it clear that coaching was much bigger than wins or losses for her, the wins came pretty regularly for many of Barnett’s Santa Maria teams.

The Saints made the playoffs fairly regularly during Barnett’s last several seasons at Santa Maria.

Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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