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The Vikings hold serve in Foothill League

Changes are rampant across the Santa Clarita Valley, but the title is still Valencia's to lose

Posted: September 22, 2009 10:56 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
There will be no shortage of plot lines to follow in Foothill League girls tennis this year.

How will a new coach fare?

Will the returning singles champion keep her crown?

And then the question that seems to get asked every year: Will any team be able to end Valencia’s dominance?

Head coach Annie Kellogg and the Vikings are trying to win their eighth consecutive league title, despite losing their top two players.

“A lot of those seven years, we haven’t necessarily had the best player,” said Kellogg, now in her 15th season as Valencia head coach. “But I think we work very hard as a team.”

The coach emphasized how important it was to be in a league as competitive as the Foothill League, and that simply practicing more than everyone else is how the team stays on top.

Twins Emily and Clarice Fraczek will move to the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots, respectively, and will play together for doubles matches.

Shenelle Trujillo will make her varsity debut this season at the No. 3 singles spot, and Kellogg said she has been impressed by Trujillo’s tenacity.

Junior Amanda Jansson was part of an All-Santa Clarita Valley doubles team with Emily, and will also be counted on to play a leadership role as one of the upperclassmen on a young team.

“We’re a young team, and the doubles teams are still developing,” Kellogg said. “But I think we have a lot of talent there.”

Andrea Zammit and Chelsea Dietz also return from last year’s team and will play No. 3 doubles together.

West Ranch, meanwhile, hopes to close the gap between itself and Valencia.

Last year, the team won its first-ever postseason match, defeating Paso Robles 14-4 in the CIF-Southern Section Division III wild-card round at home.

As West Ranch prepares to build on last year’s success, head coach Eric Spiecker has good reason for the positive outlook.

“A lot depends on how our lineups come together,” Spiecker said. “But we’re optimistic about what we’re going to see.”

There were a few key losses from last year’s squad.

The team lost senior Gavelyn Poonnapatam, its No. 2 singles player, to graduation.

However, another Poonnapatam, Gavelyn’s sister Lena, will try to fill that leadership void at one of the three singles spots.

“Any player that faces her is going to see some nice hits,” the coach said.

The All-SCV doubles team of juniors True O’Neill and Mallory Martin will return to play together, having dropped just one match in league play last season.

“(Martin and O’Neill) are going to be very consistent for us,” Spiecker said.

The coach said he has also seen a lot of promise from freshman Ana Cecilia Fuentes, an up-and-coming talent Spiecker said will “contribute as a freshman for sure.”

Patty Labat will be making her debut as well — as Hart’s varsity head coach.

Along with her husband, Labat lives in the Hart district and has taught tennis for years.

Her squad will be bolstered by 2008 league singles champion Anne Susdorf, who carries a 52-game Foothill unbeaten streak into the season.

Susdorf is the best in a strong class of junior returnees.

“They’re going to be even better this year,” Labat said, adding the importance of experience as a teacher for her squad.

“We have so many young kids this year,” she added. “We’re hopefully rebuilding right now, and we’re going to get a few points from Anne every match.”

Despite Susdorf’s undefeated run through the best the Santa Clarita Valley had to offer, her team finished third last year in league play.

Labat said that despite being young, Hart has talent in several areas, including the No. 1 doubles team of Ingrid Jelderks and Jessica Martinez.

The Indians also return their No. 2 singles player Shelly Sachdeva, giving them experience in the top three spots.

By contrast, Saugus is young but full of potential, according to head coach Allan Hardbarger.

He hopes that potential will come together at the right time to break the fourth-place ceiling that kept his group out of the playoffs for the last two years.

The coach said making the jump from fourth to third will depend heavily on whether his young players can gel and create matchup problems for other teams.

“A top-three finish is definitely the goal and we’re definitely going to need to step up at the right time,” Hardbarger said.

There will be a new look this year, as the team lost a strong doubles pairing and a few of its singles players.

“There’s a lot of new faces out there,” he said. “Our lineups are trying to focus on where we can find the best doubles pairing.”

Hardbarger was forced to replace Emily Wilson and Christina Callas, who were seniors on last year’s team and third-place finishers last year in Foothill League doubles play.

Megan Soucy, who played varsity last year as a freshman, will try to fill some of the void.

Yumi Suh is one of the few returning players and will also vie for a top lineup spot.

“She plays with a whole lot of tenacity and she hustles for every point,” Hardbarger said.

The coach said he will be using different looks and changing around personnel throughout the season as he fine-tunes his lineup.

The first of those lineups will face Golden Valley on Thursday.

Grizzlies head coach Holly Ingersoll said she knows the reputation of Golden Valley High School around the Foothill League.

And this year, she’s looking to completely change things around.

“It’s all about attitude,” Ingersoll said. “We want kids to come out who want to compete — not just to show up and play.”

The coach said that tougher conditioning, more drill work in practice and spending more time out on the court are a few of the steps she’s taken to turn the program’s fortunes around.

The coach mentioned Kristine Tan as an important part of that process.

Tan is a four-year player whom Ingersoll described as “a thinker that can really make plays.”

“She’s a hard worker, she sets an example and she’s improved so much each year,” Ingersoll said.

Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Ho will also play a big role this season.

Rachel, a sophomore, will be at the No. 1 singles spot, and Rebecca, a freshman, will play No. 2.

Both have USTA experience and have impressed Ingersoll with their games.

Anni Sarkisian and Amy Lee will figure prominently in the team’s doubles lineup, a pair that has impressed the coach with their improvement so far in a young season.

Canyon also has a young squad, and second-year head coach Debbie Glasnow knows the squad may have some struggles, but she is looking for growth and things to build on.

Nicole Smith is the returning No. 1 singles player for Canyon. But after her, there will be several new and untested faces in the lineup.

Glasnow said strategy and conditioning were going to have to help carry the team when the Cowboys face more experienced league opponents.

“We lost six varsity players to graduation from last year’s team,” Glasnow said.

But a new crop of freshmen has given Glasnow hope for the program’s future.

“I’m excited because a lot them are just at the beginning, but they’ve really stepped it up,” Glasnow said.

She described her team as a mix of players from all over, some of which have styles that complement each other very well and should lead to at least a few match points.

“It’s going to be fun to see this year,” Glasnow said. “We’re just going to keep trying to move our way up.”

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