For the first time in eight years, the Bishop Montgomery varsity tennis teams are playing without Coach Angie Campos, who died on Sept. 2 at 64 after several bouts with cancer. However, Campos is not far from the Knights’ thoughts or even their hearts, especially during a match. Girls team players wear black and gold bracelets made by junior teammate Genevieve Bever in honor of Campos. After a team prayer, they huddle and tell each other to “win for Coach Angie.” The Knights essentially have left Campos’ office intact, complete with team photos of all the Bishop Montgomery teams she coached. Steve Miller, the assistant principal in charge of athletics, said there were days when Campos underwent chemotherapy in the morning and then joined the Knights for a practice or match that same day. “That’s how strong she was,” Miller said. “For the most part, the players had a lot of time to prepare for it because they saw it progress. But she’s definitely at the forefront of their thoughts.” Campos worked hard to earn a degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills while in her 60s while coaching Bishop Montgomery and battling cancer at the same time. “That really kept her going,” Miller said. “She had such tremendous drive. Her will to live was amazing. There were times when she did not look well, and there were times where she was amazing to be around. “Getting that P.E. degree was important to her, and she loved to travel and she loved her kids and grandkids. She was very inspirational.” Over the summer, Campos lost a lot of her strength. But with an assist from Casey Dunn, the Knights’ guidance and studies coordinator, she was able to run summer conditioning for the Knights. “She was a fighter, such a fighter,” Athletic Director Kareem Mutrie said. “The girls were devastated. There were quite a few who had been with her for a while. “I’m glad we had someone helping her out in the summer.” Playing with heavy hearts, Bishop Montgomery is off to a 4-1 start, including a 3-0 mark in the Del Rey League. While Daniels and Bever form a potent No. 1 doubles team, the Knights also have a strong nucleus of young players who are making an impact in singles – sophomore Danielle Butler and freshmen Melanie Scott and Nicole Caluag. New coach Dore Pearson-Smyth, the junior varsity coach the previous two years, admitted she is learning on the job. “I feel her absence, I do,” said Pearson-Smyth, whose daughter, Pilar, is a senior on the team. “She certainly made our tennis program bigger and bigger. We had 43 girls this season, and we had to make cuts on the guys team. “I’m trying, and thank goodness all the girls are just so patient and so good.” Campos certainly left her mark on a budding Bishop Montgomery program, coaching the boys and the girls teams for the last eight years, six while she was fighting cancer. Campos coached Bishop Montgomery when the Knights were in the powerhouse Serra League that included Mater Dei and Santa Margarita. Campos led the girls team to an undefeated Del Rey League title last season, her last with the team. Campos liked to be called “Angie” by her players, showing her comfort with the players, but had to switch to “Coach Angie” because the school wanted her to have a more professional air. “She’d talk a real tough game, but she had a gigantic heart for those kids,” Miller said. “She was a real pushover.” Campos never sugar-coated anything. And her heavy Eastern European accent only enhanced whatever point she was making, like “You double fault, you give me push-up.” “When she talked, you listened,” Daniels said. “She wanted you to do the best you could, so she didn’t baby you. She told you how it is. That’s what I loved about her, is that when she told you `good job,’ you know she meant it.” Miller said Campos made her teams the top priority and was a major part of the Bishop Montgomery community. “Sometimes that’s tough as an off-campus coach, but she was able to blend right in,” Miller said. “She’d stick up for her players and make sure they were taken care of. “She’d invite out kids who never picked up a racket and make them feel welcome, and that was neat. She was really into promoting tennis, and she really lived life to the fullest, every single day.” Rivalry renewed Coaches Carrie Rey of Bishop Montgomery and Lisa Zimmerman of Mira Costa couldn’t wait to rekindle the girls volleyball series between the two schools that hadn’t existed since 1994. “I’ve known Lisa forever, so when we both became head coaches, we wanted to rekindle this and have some fun with it,” Rey said. Zimmerman was game. “They’re always tough and scrappy and Carrie does a great job,” Zimmerman said. “It was fun to come back here and play again. I think it’s a good rivalry for the South Bay.” Mira Costa beat Bishop Montgomery, 25-17, 25-12, 25-9, on Thursday. Akiyama commits Bishop Montgomery infielder Matt Akiyama made a verbal commitment to play baseball at Cal State Bakersfield, which will begin play in the Big West Conference next year. Akiyama, a second baseman who runs well, was a Daily Breeze All-Area selection as a junior, hitting .357 with 21 RBIs and 11 steals. – Tony Ciniglio, John Klima160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “It feels different this year. It still kind of hits me, though the funeral helped,” said senior captain Christine Daniels, a three-year varsity player. “At least we have the team to cope with it together. Coach Angie was a great person, and we all loved her.” About 10 Bishop Montgomery tennis players attended Campos’ funeral at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lomita on Sept. 11 after she succumbed in her third fight with cancer. Several opposing schools have held a moment of silence for Campos this season, including an emotional ceremony at Redondo. “She always had a smile on her face and lived every day to the fullest,” Bever said. “She had such a command of the team. We quote her on the bus rides and have some really great memories from her. She really made an impact on us.” Players and administrators said Campos refused to be slowed down by her cancer.