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Foothill League boys tennis preview: Recently singles

Townsend’s move from doubles is latest chapter in Valencia senior’s rapid development i

Posted: March 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Valencia High senior Tayven Townsend admits he could barely hit the ball when he was a freshman. After four years of playing club and intense training, Townsend is now the No. 2 singles player for the Vikings’ varsity squad.

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Athletes come in many shapes, sizes and abilities.

No matter the sport, there are always the types that were born with the talent and physique to advance to the highest levels of competition.

Some are flat-out bred to play from a very young age.

Then there are the athletes like Valencia senior Tayven Townsend, who never had anything handed to him as he worked his way through the ranks of high school and club tennis.

“As coach, you just can’t help but root for them on the sidelines because you know how much hard work they’ve put in,” says Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg. “And obviously sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t, but it’s always in the back of your mind that you’re really rooting for them.”

Unlike many of his teammates, who have played the game since the first day they were able to hold a racket, the 17-year-old Townsend didn’t start playing until the summer after eighth grade.

Four years filled with club tennis, private lessons, cardiovascular training and countless hours of practice later, Townsend is in the No. 2 singles spot for Valencia, the eight-time defending Foothill League champion.

“Freshman year, I could barely hit the ball very well, and now it’s totally different,” Townsend says.

Were it not for Townsend’s initial struggles in the sport, he may not have made it as far as he has.

“I was way better than he was, and just his dedication was unbelievable for these past four years,” says senior teammate Anders Jansson.

Townsend’s first attempt at tennis came at a summer camp hosted by Valencia High. Never having played organized team sports before, tennis very quickly took hold of him.

Despite the popularity of football, baseball and basketball in the Santa Clarita Valley, Townsend liked the individual nature of the tennis. It didn’t require an entire team to go out and play, just one other person and a nice place to play.

But it was going to take more than just casual matches to compete at the CIF-Southern Section Division II level. As much as Townsend loved the sport, it didn’t take him long to realize he was a few steps behind the competition — which was expected, considering he was brand new.

That wasn’t an excuse, though. It was only further motivation.

“I did OK as a substitute for JV,” he says. “I wanted to be good. I wanted to be better, not just some sub on JV.”

As a sophomore, he decided to join the Paseo Club on the advice of a former teammate’s parent.

The two years he’s spent there have been the most productive of his career, boosting him to near the top of the league in singles.

Jansson, who missed most of his junior year with injury, remembers seeing a completely transformed player when Townsend returned this year and earned his spot on the singles side.

“I don’t know how he did it, to be honest,” Jansson says.

One thing is for sure: Townsend didn’t get here by accident.

Throughout high school, his free time has been spent almost exclusively working on his game. Even so, Townsend admits he still feels like he needs to get one step further, faster and stronger, given the level of varsity competition.

“It’s quite a bit of fun to be the underdog,” Townsend says. “Especially when you’re up against a kid that’s been playing a lot longer than you.”

In fact, most of his teammates fit into that category. But according to Kellogg, that’s not all that make the Vikings a perennial powerhouse.

A lot of their success comes from players like Townsend.

“I’d still take the awesome work ethic over the ability because you can’t help but not root for those kids,” Kellogg says. “They are great examples for the rest of your team. Maybe they got started a little later. Maybe they don’t have some of the natural ability of some of the other kids, but my program has had a lot of great kids like that.”

Townsend’s work ethic was never in doubt.

Thanks to his commitment over the past four years, his abilities aren’t doubted anymore, either.

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