By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
A two-day Foothill League girls’ tennis individual championship tournament, as well as the CIF preliminaries, concluded on Thursday at The Paseo Club with all schools competing for a final time before heading into team CIF playoffs.
The Valencia Vikings, who finished on top of the Foothill League during the regular season, emerged on top with Sydney Thay winning singles and Skylar Braithwaite and Sydney Tamondong winning doubles.
“They’re all competing hard,” said Vikings head coach Darrell Peries after the first day of tournament play. “The girls just have to keep treating every match like they normally do and not take anything lightly. Carry the momentum going into day two and that’s pretty much all you can ask for as a coach.”
After the second round of day one, West Ranch Wildcats singles Mary Carmen Martinez-Kladt-Benavides advanced to day two with a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Hart’s Mia Shields.
Canyon’s Dziyana Haiduk had a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Madi Vianzon of Saugus High.
West Ranch Wildcat Abigail Pak, the eventual third-place medalist, had a 6-0, 6-1 victory against Kaitlyn Reimbold of the Castaic Coyotes, and Thay won her matchup 6-0, 6-0 against Hart’s Isabella Galoostian.
“I felt really good today,” said Thay after her day one matchups. “My rhythm was on today even though the wind picked up a little bit. I just want to stay lighthearted since it is the last prelims I will be playing with the seniors. So, it’s about having fun with these guys.”
In doubles, Braithwaite and Tamondong advanced with a 6-0, 6-1 victory against Golden Valley Grizzlies Janel Rodriguez and Zeanah Ibrahim. Indians Madison Woo and Allison Howell, the eventual third-place medalists, emerged victorious with a 6-1, 7-6, 7-2 win against Indians Teagan Heinze and Sydney Smith.
Vikings Jonam Welinkar and Maddie Muñana won 6-3, 6-1 against Wildcats Abby Morse-Tobeck and Jaden Marks, and Vikings Ellie Wingo and Alexis Kuncar won 6-1, 6-1 against Cowboys Zoe Brown and Dominique Dimaano.
“I think moving our feet and treating every match like it’s the same helped us win today, and of course knowing someone and how they play personally like Ellie really helps on the court,” said Kuncar.
“We were nervous, but it felt the same as any match. Alexis and I are like sisters so it’s always great playing with someone like her,” said Wingo.
Heading into the day two matchups, Braithwaite and Tamondong reached the finals with a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Woo and Howell, pushing them to the third-place bracket. Woo and Howell would emerge victorious in the bracket with a 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 victory against Welinkar and Muñana, securing third place. Wingo and Kuncar would beat Welinkar and Muñana 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the final round.
In the final round, Braithwaite and Tamondong would come up with a 6-0, 6-2 win against their own teammates, securing first place and pushing Kuncar and Wingo to second place, rounding out the medalists for doubles.
“It feels great to accomplish what we did because we’ve worked so hard. We just have to keep working hard and doing what we did in league,” said Braithwaite.
“I feel proud for us because it is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish, especially since it is my senior year,” said Tamondong.
For singles, Martinez-Kladt-Benevides beat Haiduk 6-2, 6-0 pushing her into the third-place bracket. Thay would win her matchup against Pak 6-1, 6-0, and Pak would then go up against Haiduk and win 6-0, 6-0, securing her third-place medal.
In the final round, Thay would win her emotional sets 6-0, 7-5 despite cramping up in her right calf and having so much pain she had to sit down on the court multiple times. The win helped secure the first-place medal and completed the first-place sweep for the Vikings.
“It feels incredible to come out with the win,” said Thay. “We’ve been working on this all year long and the match had all the emotions. My coaches told me to play with controlled aggression and to be within my limits. I’m so happy to be here and all my coaches helped me get to where I need to be.”