While the CIF-Southern Section girls tennis season finished back on November 30 for Golden Valley’s Justine Dondonay, the junior sensation keeps bringing home prestigious accolades.
Dondonay was recently selected by the National High School Tennis All-American Foundation as a High School All-American, an honor that only 40 girls and 40 boys tennis players earned across the country.
“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized because she’s put in so much hard work into her tennis game,” said Golden Valley head coach Josh Stimac. “And being a full-fledged student taking a full load of honors and AP classes and to still be able to be recognized among the very best high school tennis players in the country, it really is amazing.”
Dondonay was a force in the Foothill League all year and finished in second place at the Foothill League Finals after an epic battle with West Ranch’s Jordyn McBride.
In the CIF-SS Individual Championships, she progressed further than any tennis player from the Santa Clarita Valley, reaching the semifinals before falling to Casie Wooten, who is currently ranked as the No. 25 junior in the country according to TennisRecruiting.net.
After the match she celebrated Wooten’s win as if she had won herself, which speaks to her character and sportsmanship.
“In my mind, when I have players I look for complete people, and Justine is complete,” Stimac said. “She’s academically fantastic, she is a leader on the team and friend to the girls on the team. She’s just a good all-around kid.”
Joining Golden Valley this year after transferring from Alhambra High School, Dondonay, who is currently ranked as the No. 63 junior in the country, has completely turned around the Grizzlies’ tennis program in her short stint.
Aside from helping the Grizzlies pick up wins in league, she sets an example for the rest of her teammates, showing them how to practice, how to compete and how to become an overall better player.
“When you have a player out on the courts that hits as well as Justine does, it allows the other girls to see what’s possible on a tennis court. They get to see what tennis is supposed to look like when it’s played at the next level,” Stimac said. “I’m hoping that the other girls kind of see that and are inspired by that.
“Beyond that, they see that she’s small, physically there’s nothing big about her, she doesn’t look terribly muscular. It shows the girls that with the right technique, the right timing and a lot of time put into developing a stroke, there’s a lot that you can do.”
Dondonay, her sister and Stimac will attend a dinner and award ceremony at the Newport Beach Yacht Club later this month to receive the honor.
Many current and former professional tennis players have received the same award, including Pete Sampras, Jeff Tarango, Taylor Dent, Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Stevie Johnson and Kimberly Po.
“It’s all her,” Stimac said. “She’s put in the time on the courts so it’s good to see that she’s getting the recognition.”