Junior Spotlight: Eryn Cayetano
Eryn Cayetano is far from your typical junior tennis player, especially for someone who is considered one of the elite players in the nation.
The USC-bound Cayetano, 16, started 2018 by making the finals of the USTA Winter Nationals falling to Gianna Pielet in the final for her first USTA national ball for a top three finish in the Super National event played at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
Unlike most of her junior rivals playing at the national level, the high school junior Cayetano is not home-schooled, but instead commutes more than 90 minutes each way from her home in Corona to downtown Long Beach where she attends St. Anthony’s High because school is so important to her, and her family.
“School is a huge priority for me,” said Cayetano, who has a 4.0-plus GPA. “My parents never had to remind me to study. I’ve always just stayed on top of my school work.”
Cayetano’s father is an electrical engineer and her mother a nurse and both work near her Long Beach school.
Cayetano said it was her father Ed, a former high school and college player at Long Beach City College, who started her playing tennis at the age of 7. “I would watch him in the park and he finally asked me to come out and play with him,” said Cayetano, who made it to the quarterfinals in doubles at Winter Nationals with her fellow SCTA junior Amanda Chen. “But we are the only ones in my family who play tennis.”
Cayetano said her success at Winter Nationals to start the year might have surprised some but that anyone who is good enough to play a Super Nationals should be prepared to go all the way. “Honestly I wouldn’t consider it a huge surprise, or something that will get me more noticed,” she said. “Whoever makes it into a tournament like that is elite. It’s both humbling and an honor just to get into the main draw. It just goes to show you all the hard work has paid off.”
Cayetano’s game has improved over the past 12 months because of that hard work. “Ever since I was little I have taken my tennis seriously,” she said. “I’m eating healthier and doing fitness on my own now. I even ask if I can stay on the court for another hour after practice.”
Cayetano took lessons for years with one of her first coaches Dave Nowick, formerly of La Habra Tennis Center who moved to Chandler, Ariz. She currently takes lessons from Jay Leavitt at Peninsula Racquet Club and works out with the First Break Academy and takes lessons from former UCLA star Karue Sell in Carson at StubHub Center.
She credits Rick Buchta her Head Racquet Played I.D. and Peggy Bott from First Break Academy as mentors who she admires in SoCal tennis circles. And the feeling is mutal.
“Everyone admires Eryn’s athleticism, work ethic, and commitment to community service,” said First Break Academy Director Bott. “She won the hearts; certainly the respect, of our youngest multi-sport kids through her patience with them on the tennis court and her competitiveness on the basketball court. Eryn has a beautiful tennis game and we are all so proud of her accomplishments and certainly her pathway is one to emulate.”
First Break Academy encourages multi-sport participation and that’s what Cayetano is all about as she has enjoyed basketball, golf and volleyball competitively over the years. She also calls photography and playing the ukulele two of her favorite hobbies outside of tennis.
Cayetano joins Long Beach’s Salma Ewing as being a fellow future Trojan, and both had memorable Ojai tournaments last year with Ewing winning the Women’s Open singles, and Cayetano advancing to the final of the Girls’ 16s singles. It means both will have their finals picture on the wood frame boards that sit in storied Libbey Park for years to come.
“When I reached the final I was like, ‘Wow!’ I love The Ojai and looking at the boards and seeing all the greats who won there. I was really speechless and happy to make it to the final.”