Julio Mercado thought he would have been playing golf or sipping iced tea during the afternoon at this point in his life, but the girls tennis program at Bakersfield keeps calling, and Mercado keeps answering.
Two years after he retired from teaching and a year after he said he was done coaching, Mercado spent Thursday at Frontier, coaching the Drillers to a 6-3 win that keeps them unbeaten in the Southwest Yosemite League.
"I'll take this any day," Mercado said. "We did well in Clovis (at the California Tennis Classic earlier this month), making the Division IV finals. We played some tough schools there. Now we're doing well here."
The Drillers (9-4, 3-0 SWYL) beat Frontier (8-3, 1-2) with a sweep in doubles after the teams tied 3-3 in singles.
That's a far cry from last weekend, when Bakersfield played in a tournament on the coast and was swept in doubles play in two matches.
"It's something I emphasized to them in practice this week," Mercado said. "Today they answered the bell."
Leading the charge was senior Isabel Donaldson, who beat Madison Sweeny 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles and then teamed with Ali Vaughn to beat Sweeny and Kaylee Defrees 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
"She's been playing really well," Mercado said about Donaldson, who is 7-2 in singles. "You get some tough matches playing No. 1, but she's a good one."
Vaughn also recorded two wins for the Drillers, as did No. 6 player Falana Kelly. She teamed with Danielle Aranda at No. 2 doubles for a 6-0, 6-0 win to clinch the team victory.
Bakersfield plays Stockdale, the other unbeaten SWYL team, at home Thursday.
"My hope is we can challenge them," Mercado said. "They're definitely the team to beat. They're tough. They're loaded."
Frontier was playing without its No. 4 player, freshman Angela Ragus, because of injury, and No. 2 player Amy White had to leave after singles play because of a prior conflict.
Titans coach Elton Evans said the match could have been different with those two playing.
"If they were here, we'd like our chances better," Evans said. "It was good to tie in the (singles) round."
Sweeny, Frontier's top player, is also a freshman. Evans hopes she can start a new era for Frontier, which graduated nearly its entire team two years ago.
"It's been a total recycle," he said. "We're doing much better, and these new freshmen help."
Of course, Bakersfield has only two seniors itself -- Donaldson and Aranda. That means the Drillers might have a pretty good team next year, too, and that means Mercado is already thinking about another return.
"Next year, we'll improve," said Mercado, who has retired as boys tennis coach. "So I might have one more year. You never know."