Valencia girls tennis player Brenna Whelan had a familiar face not just next to her in doubles partner Sydney Thay, but also across the net in her opponents at the CIF-Southern Section Individual Sectionals on Tuesday.
Whelan and Thay, the Foothill League doubles champions, played Chaminade’s Kai Nikchevich and Sofia De Belles in their second match of the day at Cate High School. Whelan has been friends with the Chaminade doubles pair since middle school.
“I’ve played (with them) many times before,” Whelan, a senior, said. “Because of playing with them, I was able to go with my partner and tell her how they play. Kind of a dramatic game and it was fun.”
The Vikings won the match 6-3, 6-7 to advance to the Round of 32 along with the West Ranch doubles team of Chase Eisenburg and Brooke Johnston and singles player Jordyn McBride.
Both the Vikings and Chaminade teams played aggressively throughout, but Whelan said she knew that she and Thay would win late in the tiebreaker when one of her opponents had to take a medical timeout due to cramping.
“(They were) both really aggressive at the net,” Whelan said, “so it was a matter of not giving it to them at the net and for us to be more aggressive and put our shots away, so that was a big thing we focused on. And setting each other up with our serves.”
Whelan nearly suffered an injury herself in the second set against Chaminade. She got hit by the ball in the right knee twice. Although it didn’t cause any major pain, it was a distraction.
“It was fine, I think I was more shocked that she hit me again,” Whelan said. “It was just kind of like, really?”
Prior to beating Nikchevich and De Belles, Whelan and Thay beat Archer’s Naya Ben-Meir and Hannah Katzenstein 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of bracket play.
Thay, a freshman, is having her first prep tennis playoff experience, but Whelan has been in this position before and is comfortable. Last season, she made it to the Round of 16 with partner Amanda Tabanera, who is now playing at Valparaiso University.
“I think last year taught me a lot and being able to help Sydney, we’re both able to help each other and we get each other through it. I’m happy I got her as a partner this year.”
Eisenburg and Johnston won 6-1, 6-0 in the first round, then 6-1, 2-6 and 10-3 in a super tiebreaker. McBride, the Foothill League singles champion won the first round 6-0, 6-0 and the second round 6-0, 6-1.
Whelan and Thay in addition to Eisenburg and Johnston and McBride will play in the Round of 32 on Tuesday, Dec. 3 starting at 12:30 p.m. at Seal Beach Tennis Center.