Valencia foreign exchange student finds home with girls tennis team

Carlotta Nonnis Marzano (back, far right) poses with her Valencia teammates at the Golden State Classic at Stanford. Courtesy Photo

It was somewhat of a chance encounter that brought junior Carlotta Nonnis Marzano to Valencia.

For starters, the Vikings girls tennis standout had a chance to go to a school in Santa Monica through her foreign exchange program. But her father, Francesco, helped her decided on Valencia — Foothill League girls tennis champions 12 out of the last 15 seasons.

There was just one problem, though.

“We didn’t realize that there were two Valencia (high schools) near each other and I accidently enrolled in the wrong one,” Nonnis Marzano said.

She eventually found her way on the Vikings campus, and has been a welcomed addition to the team’s singles lineup as it’s out to a 4-1 start in league play.

But, unsurprisingly, it took a while for the Parma, Italy native to break the ice at a new school.

“I’m really shy, so when (coach Annie Kellogg) had me meet the varsity team for the first time, I didn’t say much,” Nonnis Marzano said.

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She quickly found a friend, though, in Vikings team captain, Amanda Tabanera . The two started practicing together at the Paseo Tennis Club and a friendship was born. That transformed into having lunch together and coordinating trips to the mall. Now, they’re ecstatic about an upcoming trip to the Museum of Ice Cream in downtown Los Angeles.

“The first time we hung I thought it might just have been because they wanted to help me fit in,” Nonnis Marzano said. “But then we started to grow very close. If I ever need to text someone about something, it’s her. If I ever need help finding something at school, it’s her.”

Tabanera, who’s spent her entire life living in Valencia, was happy to help.

“I wanted to make sure she felt comfortable because it’s hard,” Tabanera said. “I’d be so scared to go to another country like that and go to a new school.”

It would be tough to tell Nonnis Marzano has only spent about seven weeks at Valencia. While being interviewed, a handful of students stopped to greet her, and when asked about her eventual departure following the semester, Tabanera was quick to answer instead.

“I really, really hope she comes back,” she said with a smile.

While serving as a friend, Nonnis Marzano has also helped improve Tabanera’s game.

“Amanda was just delighted because she was going to have somebody she could practice with,” Kellogg said. “Otherwise, I was talking to players from the guys team and was going to have one come out and hit with Amanda. But then Carlotta showed up and she hits harder than most of our guys.”

Nonnis Marzano followed in the footsteps of her father and two sisters by taking part in a foreign exchange program. She’s had to adjust to things like playing on mostly concrete surfaces, and playing on a high school team in general.

“They don’t have high school sports in Italy, so being able to do things like go to football games on Friday night is a completely new thing,” Kellogg said. “It takes a lot of courage to leave your country and your family to have this kind of experience.”

Nonnis Marzano didn’t rule out a return to Valencia for next season. No matter what she decides, she’ll have a friend in Tabanera.

“Amanda was so cute a couple days ago, saying, ‘I want Carlotta to come back next year and I want her to play in college with me,”’ Kellogg said. “They’re sweet kids and they’ve really embraced each other.”

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