They were born the same day, learned to play tennis the same day and joined the Portola High School tennis team the same day.
Last year as freshmen, twins Kylie and Kenzie Nguyen led the team to its first Pacific Coast League championship, with Kylie leading the doubles team to the CIF quarterfinals and Kenzie winning the CIF singles title – both Portola firsts.
This year, they’re poised to surpass last year’s achievements.
“They’re rock stars on the court,” says Portola tennis coach Natasha Schottland. “The other girls look up to the twins as role models.”
Schottland recently paired them as a doubles team at the prestigious Point Loma Tournament, where they defeated perennial favorite Mater Dei.
“Watching Kenzie’s power on the baseline and Kylie closing at the net to finish points – it was like watching a beautiful dance,” Schottland says.
Both girls hope to play for a Division 1 college team after graduating.
Their secret weapon, they admit, has been Irvine’s world-class tennis courts, coaches, schools – and something else.
“They’re rock stars on the court. The other girls look up to the twins as role models.” – Natasha Schottland, Portola tennis coach
“We’ve always had each other,” says Kylie, the first-born of the fraternal twins.
“We’re best friends,” Kenzie says. “I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without her.”
Born to play
The girls started tennis at age 5. Their mom, Mary, a dentist, came from a family of successful tennis players. Their dad, Tom, a gastroenterologist, spent hours on the court with the girls after work, feeding them balls and teaching them basics.
“Move your feet,” he’d say. “Accelerate your swing,” he’d say – reminders they still tell themselves to this day.
By the time the girls entered Rancho San Joaquin Middle School, they’d already taken private lessons and begun training in the gym on footwork, cardio and endurance.
It paid off. As freshmen, Kenzie used a booming serve to become the team’s No. 1 singles player (going 38-0 along the way), while Kylie used her creative net play to become the team’s No. 1 doubles player.
“They were mesmerizing to watch,” Schottland says.
Courtside, you might see Kenzie, the more serious of the two, reading a book before warmups, while Kylie, who crochets her own hats, is apt to jump into her teammates’ arms after winning.
You might also see mom – their chauffeur, No. 1 cheerleader and ensurer that all homework gets done.
“I like to watch them play,” she says, “and I also bring snacks – sometimes Chick-fil-A.”
Both girls make a point of thanking their teammates, their coaches and especially their parents.
“Lots of love to our parents,” says Kenzie, who now trains at the U.S. Tennis Association development center in Carson. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
“Yeah,” Kylie adds. “Everything they do for us is out of love, and I appreciate that.”