West Ranch senior Jordyn McBride competes against Arcadia in a nonleague match. Cory Rubin/The Signal

2019 Foothill League girls tennis preview

Since Jordyn McBride joined the ranks of the West Ranch girls tennis team as a freshman, the Wildcats have won three consecutive Foothill League titles. 

Now a senior, McBride and company are looking to make it four straight, but Valencia isn’t going to make it easy on them.

The Vikings graduated half of the varsity team last year, but return a group of experienced players along with some talented freshmen.

Senior Brenna Whelan will lock down the No. 1 singles spot and likely compete for an individual crown when the Foothill League prelims and finals roll around.

Sydney Thay, a freshman and the younger sister of Valencia boys tennis player Stephen Thay, will make an immediate impact according to head coach Jackson Boxall. 

“Brenna, Ashley (Villarta), those girls are going to come out firing for sure, they’ve been working really hard over the offseason,” Boxall said. “They’ve shown a lot of improvement in volleying, coming to the net, Brenna with her patience of course. We have a really good freshman Sydney Thay, she’s playing No. 2 singles for us and she’s been lights out during preseason.”

Villarta, a junior, and sophomore Sydney Tamandong return to the varsity team and will provide veteran leadership for the group. 

Tiffany Recalde is another freshman who will be featured in doubles.

“Tiffany Recalde is playing No. 1 doubles with Ashley and has done amazing,” Boxall said. “Pushing to the net, being aggressive, showing how Vikings tennis should be played.” 

Valencia is poised and ready to make a run for the Foothill League title but will have its hands full with a talented and deep West Ranch team. 

Shaira Busnawi, who saw a lot of time as a singles player last year, is teaming up with Angelina Ciuffo this season to create a formidable No. 1 doubles team who will challenge for the league doubles title.

West Ranch doubles pair Shaira Busnawi and Angelina Ciuffo celebrate a point in a nonleague match against Arcadia. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“They have great chemistry, they’re both competitive players and I needed a really strong No. 1,” West Ranch head coach Dina McBride said after a match earlier in the preseason. “They are both Southern Cal tournament players and I need a strong No. 1. I think they’ve had the chemistry to do that and be that No. 1 position.”

Kayla Halberstam, Brooke Johnston, Macy Muxlow and Ashley Tonthat will mix and match as doubles partners throughout the season to round out the No. 2 and No. 3 teams. 

Varsity newcomers Nicole Augusta, Allie Hinsley and Avery Salin will also be featured in both doubles and singles competition. 

McBride could easily go the distance this season without losing a set, just like she’s done in years prior, and will anchor the singles players for West Ranch to conclude her high school career.

“She set a legacy at West Ranch and not only with her playing ability, with her sportsmanship,” McBride said. “They now realize you can be incredibly talented, incredibly gifted and still be the nicest person on the court, and hopefully that’s the legacy she’s leaving for West Ranch: that we’re good, hard competitors. We’re going to fight to the death and we’re good sports.”

Senior Chase Eisenberg and dynamic freshman Annette Robertson will help shoulder the load as the No. 2 and No. 3 singles players on most occasions.

Hart is coming off a remarkable playoff run in Division 3 last year, having won a wildcard match and two postseason matches to reach the quarterfinals.

Moving up to Division 2 this year, the Indians will have a tough challenge replacing six key seniors who graduated last year, particularly on the doubles side. Additionally, crucial contributor Stefani Woll will miss the season after suffering a torn ACL.

Julia Estrada and Hannah Heiber will do their best to anchor doubles as the No. 1 team and Julia Hannah and Grace Howell will serve as the No. 2 team. Lauren Neal and Bree Lemos will see most of their time as the No. 3 team with Andee Bates and Melanie Ramirez expected to also see time in doubles. 

The singles side for Hart will feature returning varsity players Cameron Schwartz, Carly Wilkinson and Bella Cornejo as the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. 

Last season was an interesting one to say the least for the Golden Valley Grizzlies, who featured one of the most exciting players in Southern California in Justine Dondonay. 

Though Dondonay is still eligible to play this season, she verbally committed to play at the U.S. Military Academy next year and will be sitting out.

That leaves Makayla Zareno, Jaiden Goudey and Ashleigh Azarraga as the three players who will spend most of their time as Golden Valley’s singles players. 

The Grizzlies have one of the most well-rounded teams in the league on the doubles side, with senior team captains Kennedi Williams and Evelyn Kong leading the charge as the No. 1 duo.

The No. 2 doubles team is also comprised of two seniors in Mindy Mello and Roselyn Uy. Julie Jeon and Ashley Yoon round out the doubles teams, with senior Star Hartnek likely to see time both in singles and doubles.

“Both of them are playing so much better than last year. They will be my No. 1 team,” Golden Valley head coach Josh Stimac said of Williams and Kong after a preseason match against Royal. “My No. 2, Mindy Mello and Roselyn Uy, on any given they day they are able to beat Kennedi and Evelyn, it’s just a different style of winning, a different way to win. There’s more than one way to win at tennis and my doubles teams all have different ways to do it. 

“My No. 3 team in doubles, Julie and Ashley, have very clean strokes and very good strokes, they just still have to figure out how to win.”

Saugus’ Emily Christensen returns a volley in a matchup with Glendale at Saugus High School. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Saugus returns a boatload of experienced varsity players this year and will do its best to etch its way into the No. 3 spot in league, if not better. 

The Centurions are lead by No. 1 singles player Emily Christensen, who has the talent to compete with anybody in the Foothill League. Maddie Wiseman, who transferred last year from Alemany, has already demonstrated her ability to compete in the league finishing in third place at the Foothill League finals last year. Natalie Ratzlaff will also be a part of the singles side.

Saugus is stacked in doubles as well, returning key players Alyssa Alvidrez, Emily Belcher, Abby Bolks and Katie Denzin. Riyana Chhabra and Katrina Yim are also veterans, making the Centurions one of the most experienced and accomplished teams in the Foothill League. 

Canyon is young across the board this year and will rely heavily on No. 1 singles player Amber Kashay. Brooklyn Rappe and Maya Bernal will also do their part to help lead the Cowboys to some league wins.

As one of the younger teams, it will be difficult for the Cowboys against tough competition in league, so head coach Richard Bristow is doing his best to scheme and strategize to put his players in the best position to succeed. 

Canyon’s Amber Kashay competes against Simi Valley at Canyon High School. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We know if we stay in a rally for a long time we’re probably going to lose, so we’ve been working a lot more on strategy, finding the weaknesses in our opponent,” Bristow said. “All of them I tell to charge the net. We work a lot in practice on our net game, getting to the net and being aggressive, drawing our opponent to the net, lobbing it. I think that’s going to be our best shot.”

Canyon opens league play this afternoon against Valencia on the road at 3 p.m. West Ranch travels to Saugus for a 3 p.m. showdown and Hart will head to Golden Valley, with match time scheduled for 2 p.m.

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