Hart girls tennis holds off Golden Valley

Bella Cornejo of Hart competes against Golden Valley at Placerita Junior High on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As the sun came down on a windy Thursday night in Newhall, the Hart and Golden Valley girls tennis teams continued to fight to the finish.

The Grizzlies were able to capture two late wins in tiebreaker sets, but the Indians came out on top 13-5 at Placerita Junior High School.

Golden Valley’s team of Kennedi Williams and Evelyn Kong were in a close battle with Hart’s Julia Hannah and Melanie Ramirez, and on the neighboring court, Roseyln Uy and Jaiden Goudey of the Grizzlies were engaged in a tight set of their own against Julia Estrada and Bree Lemos of Hart.

Both sets went to a tiebreaker, and Golden Valley was able to capture the two wins victories.

“Looking at the score the first time we played them it was 13-5, with those two wins at the end that pushes us back to 13-5. It always feels worse to get a worse score the second round,” said Golden Valley head coach Josh Stimac. “So I think coming back into next week we have West Ranch and Valencia. It’s not necessarily about those matches but about pushing it forward to next week. It’s a good confidence booster. Despite the loss, they played really good tennis.”

Hart did most of its damage on the singles side, winning seven of nine possible points behind strong performances from No. 1 Josie Wondra and No. 3 Bella Cornejo. 

Josie Wondra of Hart competes against Golden Valley at Placerita Junior High on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Wondra won all three of her sets 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 and Cornejo also won all three of her sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

“Bella has always had the talent but this year she really turned a corner and plays a much more cerebral game,” said Hart head coach Allan Hardbarger. “She thinks about court position and shot selection and that has made a big difference when she’s playing against tough players.”

Wondra, a transfer from Las Vegas, joined Hart’s team at the beginning of the year but was only recently eligible to play in league matches.

Wondra won all of her sets for the second consecutive league match.

“Having her gives us more options in our lineup,” Hardbarger said about the addition of Wondra. “We’re still strong in singles and Cameron (Schwartz) really strengthens our doubles teams. It’s a nice luxury to have. Josie has come in, she’s been a great part of the team and we love having her here.”

Schwartz played on the doubles side Thursday, teaming up with Lauren Neal to win all three of their sets 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. 

One of the more versatile players in the Foothill League, Schwartz is crucial to the team’s success behind her strong play and leadership skills. 

“Cameron was very receptive about moving to doubles,” Hardbarger said. “She’s been an anchor for the three playoff teams since she was a freshman.”

Golden Valley’s Ashleigh Azarraga serves against Hart at Placerita Junior High on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

In addition to winning their final set, Uy and Goudey earned another win for Golden Valley, defeating Hannah and Grace Howell 6-3. 

Goudey filled in for Mindy Mello, who usually teams up with Uy but was out of town, and played extremely well according to her coach. 

“Amazing, I even told her after the match she’s the one who can step easily from singles to doubles and she does it voluntarily,” Stimac said. “She gets out there and fights hard. She’s a fantastic kid, she’s a good fighter.”

Golden Valley’s No. 1 Makayla Zareno and No. 2 Ashleigh Azarraga each won one set.

Hart will face Valencia on the road on Tuesday and Golden Valley will be home to West Ranch. Match time is scheduled for 3 p.m.

“I think the girls know what we need to do in this next week, they don’t need to put any extra pressure, it’s more motivation,” Hardbarger said. “They want to go out there and play their best tennis. I try to preach to them whether we win or lose, as long as they are having fun and doing their best, everybody wins.”

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