A look at Foothill League girls tennis at the midway point of the season

Valencia's Sydney Tamondong returns a volley in a Foothill League matchup with Hart at Valencia High School. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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The first half of Foothill League play is in the books for the girls tennis teams as each squad has had the opportunity to play one another.

After five matches, the West Ranch Wildcats currently sit atop the league standings with an undefeated record, with the Valencia Vikings right on their tail at 4-1.

West Ranch and Valencia played on Thursday, with the Wildcats coming out on top 12-6 in a hard-fought match.

Several of the sets were tight, and two sets on the doubles side went to a tiebreaker, with Valencia’s Ashley Villarta and Sydney Tamondong coming out victorious in both.

Vikings head coach Jackson Boxall said after the match that he will work on implementing new strategies in the coming weeks before the two teams meet again in a couple of weeks to conclude league play.

“We’re going to come up with some new strategies, especially in doubles because there were so many matches that were determined by just a couple of games,” Boxall said. “We have to be more aggressive at the net, but other than that, I think honestly if we face them like how we did today, I think we could possibly get them next time.”

Valencia’s Brenna Whelan returns a volley in a Foothill League matchup with Hart. Cory Rubin/The Signal

West Ranch and Valencia both feature experienced and talented players at the No. 1 singles spot in Jordyn McBride and Brenna Whelan, respectively, but a pleasant surprise has been the play of some talented freshmen.

Annette Robertson of the Wildcats and Sydney Thay of the Vikings have been dominant so far in their freshman campaigns, adding depth to already stellar rosters. Robertson was able to get the 6-2 win in their first league head-to-head matchup, but there will be many future close battles between these two players for years to come.

With West Ranch and Valencia likely to finish as the top two teams in league, the No. 3 spot is a prized position as the last of the automatic playoff berths.

Saugus, Hart and Golden Valley have been vying for the third spot in the standings, with the Centurions having the slight edge heading into the second half of league play.

The Centurions sit at 3-2 and the Indians at 2-3, with the former squeaking out a 9-9 (89-82 in games) victory in their first meeting. 

“The girls are hungry, they want to see Saugus again as soon as possible,” Hart head coach Allan Hardbarger said after the match. “We definitely can’t look ahead of ourselves, it’s a long season, anything can happen at any time.”

Hart was without Yosi Wondra in the match, a junior transfer from Las Vegas who has already had a major impact for the Indians after playing in her first two league matches last week.

Wondra lost all three sets against West Ranch last week, but was able to win five games combined against Robertson and Chase Eisenberg. Against Canyon on Thursday, she won all three of her matches 6-0.

Emily Christensen of Saugus competes against Hart at Saugus. Dan Watson/The Signal

The last six years, Hart has been the other Foothill League team along with West Ranch and Valencia to reach the postseason. 

Saugus is trying to make its way back into the playoffs, and has relied on its experienced roster to fight through the competitive Foothill League.

The Centurions are loaded with senior leaders like Alyssa Alvidrez, Katie Denzin, Abby Bolks and Emily Belcher and junior Emily Christensen is a three-year varsity player with vast experience. 

“The senior leadership that we have is incredible, they bring up the younger players,” Saugus head coach Ken Jeffris said. “They don’t back down from the competition. They might not be as skilled as some of their opponents but they battle. Our plan is to keep getting better and better, finish league strong and get into the playoffs.”

The second meeting between Hart and Saugus on Oct. 17 will likely determine the third-place finisher in the league this year.

Despite a 1-5 record, Golden Valley has remained competitive in its league matches. The Grizzlies beat Canyon 14-4 last week to earn their first league win.

Canyon’s Brooklyn Rappe returns a volley in a matchup with Golden Valley at Canyon High School. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The doubles teams for Golden Valley have played particularly well, with the No. 1 team of Kennedi Williams and Evelyn Kong and the No. 2 team of Mindy Mello and Roselyn Uy shouldering the load.

Canyon is still searching for its first league win this year, but might struggle to notch that elusive victory.

The Cowboys have some young talent, including singles players Amber Kashay and Brooklyn Rappe. So while they might not get a league win this year, the future is bright for the Cowboys.

League play resumes on Thursday with Golden Valley at Hart, Valencia at Canyon and Saugus at West Ranch. All three matches will start at 3 p.m.

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