The competition for first place in Foothill League girls tennis doesn’t need any heating up. It’s already hot, and it’s only the first day of league play.
West Ranch nabbed the crown last season, snatching it from Valencia, which had won 12 of the 14 previous league titles.
It didn’t sit well with the Vikings, who are entering this season with a competitive mindset.
“It’s always about team and (West Ranch is) the team to beat,” said Valencia coach Annie Kellogg. “They’re really loaded up and got loads of players coming back, so we’re working towards it and we’re working towards the end of the year and the league tournament for individuals and doubles teams.”
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Valencia graduated six seniors last year, leaving a young core led by some key upperclassmen.
In singles, league champion Amanda Tabanera returns for her junior year. She’s coming back as a physically stronger player, but Kellogg said that her biggest weapon is her high tennis IQ.
“It’s amazing watching her play,” the coach said. “Top singles players … they might be bigger or stronger than her, but she figures out a way.”
We can expect a strong matchup between her and the Wildcats’ Jordyn McBride this season. McBride consistently beat Tabanera throughout the regular season, but it was Tabanera who triumphed at the Foothill League finals.
Jennifer Shin, a senior, is also back for the Vikings after taking last year off to deal with injuries, according to Kellogg. Shin is still overcoming back issues but will play a valuable role in singles when she is healthy.
In doubles, the Cats duo of Audrey Kim and Emily Andrews return after a successful sophomore league campaign that ended in the semifinals at the Foothill League finals. They fell to now-graduated teammates Cori Raffish and Quinterra Walter-Eze.
Valencia returns the pairing of Taylor Cohen and Nicole Stefani, who were the only doubles team to beat Raffish and Walter-Eze last year.
The Vikings also have Kirsten Kieu, Carissa Chu and Alexis Coleman who have made the jump from JV to varsity. Kellogg said that freshmen Ashley Zillarta and Jaclyn Wosk are also looking promising.
Valencia has its first league matchup today at 3 p.m. at home against Hart. Golden Valley will be at West Ranch at the same time. Canyon will travel to Saugus at 3 p.m.