Albany High junior Allison Chuang is not only a terrific tennis player and a straight-A student, but she also has an infectious smile.
Just ask her private tennis coach, Morgan Shepherd.
"Oh yeah, she's brilliant," Shepherd said. "I've almost never seen her without a smile on her face. She enjoys not just tennis, but also her friends. She's very well-rounded. She has a knack for getting stuff done."
Chuang got it done again in the rain-plagued North Coast Section Division I tournament, earning a second consecutive NCS singles crown.
Thus, Chuang has been selected as the Bay Area News Group East Bay Player of the Year in girls tennis for the second straight year.
She staved off power-hitting Rickimae Torres of Dougherty Valley 7-5, 6-3 in the final, after beating Acalanes star Isabella Von Ebbe 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals and Julienne Worring of Tamalpais 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
Torres made Chuang earn it with a gallant effort.
"She was playing really well, going after her shots -- she has a lot of power," Chuang said of Torres. "So I guess my game plan was just to stay really steady and keep the ball coming back as many times as possible."
Unlike in 2012 when Chuang didn't expect to win the title, she had the extra pressure of being the top seed this time. Shepherd admires how Chuang, always a focused competitor, handled her new role.
"She's just beginning to get used to being the favorite," he said. "Last year she was kind of the underdog. Now it's always a different mentality, so I was really proud of her. I felt like she really competed, regardless of the score and who she was playing."
In 2012, Pinole Valley's Stephanie Lin, who has trained with Shepherd, was favored to repeat at NCS, but Chuang rallied for 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 marathon win over her friendly rival. Lin had beaten Chuang in the 2011 semifinals.
As her game matures, Chuang is playing more aggressively in taking balls early on the backhand side. Plus, the mail is starting to stack up from college recruiters. Last year, Chuang made her mark as the No. 1 ranked USTA U-16s player in Northern California. She's already won a tournament in the U-18s age group.
In the demanding world of junior tennis, Chuang's positive demeanor and balanced life brightens her story. She says playing tennis helps her have a better work ethic overall.
As for that smile, it comes naturally.
"You have to have fun while you're at it, right?" she says. "Otherwise, it's just really hard to keep going in school and in tennis. You make really good friends with people you're really close to, and it kind of helps you through the process."