There’s a new girls tennis player in the Santa Clarita Valley that has Foothill League coaches and players turning their heads.
Justine Dondonay, a transfer from Alhambra High School in Los Angeles, has brought new life to the Golden Valley tennis program and new competition for the rest of the league.
“I look forward to getting to see her play because I hear she’s a lovely player,” said Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg. “It’s nice for Golden Valley to have a premiere player, nice for the whole Santa Clarita Valley to have another great player in the mix this year.”
After a match against Hart in which Dondonay swept all three of her sets, Indians head coach Allan Hardbarger said with a smile, “I’m just glad I’m not out there playing against her.”
Dondonay first learned to play tennis from her parents Enrique and Lynsie Dondonay, both of whom are registered nurses.
“My dad really liked playing tennis and he still plays now a little,” Justine said. “He had me start playing at five and I’ve just kept on playing since then. He was my first coach.”
Dondonay has two sisters, Gabrielle, who is older and used to play tennis at Golden Valley, and Adrianne, who is younger and prefers taekwondo.
When Dondonay first decided to transfer, the top players in the Foothill League, Jordyn McBride of West Ranch and Amanda Tabanera of Valencia, reached out to her welcoming her to the Foothill League.
“I play them in tournaments outside of high school, so I usually see them a lot,” Dondonay said of McBride and Tabanera with a smile. “They wanted me to play for their schools, but I chose Golden Valley. They are very welcoming here.”
Grizzlies head coach Josh Stimac is certainly pleased that Dondonay chose to play for his program.
He believes she is just scratching the surface of her game and will only continue to get better.
“She’s an experienced player. She hits the ball incredibly cleanly and she’s very serious on the court,” Stimac said. “I’m looking forward to watching her play. I think she’s going to do great things.”
Dondonay describes herself as a “pretty aggressive player” whose strongest assets are her forehand and serves.
Though she doesn’t model her game after anyone in particular, she is a big fan of Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka.
When she’s not playing for her school, Dondonay is playing in United States Tennis Association (USTA) leagues, catching the attention of tennis scouts across the country.
“My main goal is to play Division 1 college tennis,” she said. “I hope to get a scholarship. I’m looking into colleges and hopefully will commit sometime this year.”
She has already garnered interest from three Ivy League schools (Yale, Cornell and Brown) as well as Minnesota, Kansas, Denver University and West Point.
According to the tennis Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), Dondonay is currently ranked as the No. 23 junior in the country for girls, ranking as high as No. 16 earlier in September.
While she plays in several tournaments outside the confines of high school, Dondonay knows how competitive Foothill League is and she is looking forward to helping her team reach new heights.
“There’s been some big competition. There’s a match coming up with Valencia and there are some really good players there,” she said. “We have a pretty competitive league.”
Dondonay and the rest of the Grizzlies will face the Vikings at 3 p.m. on Thursday at Valencia.