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Prep tennis: A friendly match

West Ranch junior Von Kessler is as likeable as he is likely to beat you on the court

Posted: April 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Given his easygoing nature, it’s easy to mistake West Ranch junior Baron Von Kessler for someone who isn’t committed to tennis. But he’s 10-2 this season for the Wildcats, and he hopes to help them dethrone perennial Foothill League power Valencia.

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Everyone knows it’s a part of sports.

It’s that awkward moment between athletes when they have to shake hands or display some sort of respect for one another right after competing.

Emotions can run high. Tempers can flare. Most times it’s a quick, obligatory exchange before the athletes or coaches go their separate ways.

But not with West Ranch junior tennis player Baron Von Kessler.

He’s become known for being one of the most competitive yet likeable players in the Foothill League.

“He’s just amenable,” says West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker. “He’s competitive, but regardless of whether he wins or loses, he’s just a friendly guy.”

Somehow, the 16-year-old Von Kessler has found a balance between serious matchups with some his fiercest rivals and having a good time with some of his best friends.

In many cases, the rivals and friends are one in the same.

“I get competitive when I need to be and I’ll pull out wins when we need the wins, but after matches, we want to have fun,” Von Kessler says.

At times, the third-year varsity player will sit with players on opposing teams during matches while he waits to take the court.

Sure, it’s unorthodox, but it comes naturally to a Von Kessler and his easygoing personality.

“People look at it and say, ‘He doesn’t care,’” says Baron’s father, Al. “But that’s not what it is.”

Looking at a list of his accomplishments would put that argument to rest quickly.

Von Kessler played doubles for the Wildcats beginning his freshman year. By his sophomore year, he had become one of the best singles players in the league after compiling a 21-9 record and earning a spot on the All-Santa Clarita Valley singles team.

He carries a 10-2 record so far this season.

Outside of high school, he was also Ventura County Junior Tennis Association singles champion in 2010, as well as United State Tennis Association junior singles champion.

During the summer, he trained at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. It’s the same academy attended by tennis professionals like Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Maria Sharapova.

“I was able to play with really good players and improve my game a lot,” Baron says. “I played against a lot of different players, hard-hitting, really consistent. I saw all types of players.”

His performance there gave him the choice to play on two different European traveling teams. He chose the French Med/Espana International team, which will tour several European countries this summer.

Through playing at West Ranch, the Paseo Club and various other clinics, Baron has clearly made tennis his priority for the time being.

“Tennis is like my job right now,” Baron says.

Yet still, with all the time and energy he devotes to mastering the game, he puts the same amount of emphasis on keeping it lively.

“He’s always messing around in practice and he’s always getting in trouble, but when it comes to competition, he knows how to be serious,” says Baron’s teammate Brandon Lee, who plays on West Ranch’s No. 1 doubles team.

The reputation has made Baron somewhat of a crowd favorite. At West Ranch home matches, spectators have caught wind of his long-time nickname, “B-V-K,” which they chant when he’s involved in a tight set.

“All the Valencia kids love him. All of our kids love him. ... He could go on any team and become the favorite right away,” Spiecker says.

Not bad, considering Valencia and West Ranch have developed into the league’s biggest rivals in the sport. The Wildcats have finished second to the Vikings in each of the last four seasons.

It’s a trend Baron no doubt wants to reverse this year, and that can start with Tuesday’s matchup between the two teams.

Facing Valencia’s top single players may be some of the toughest tasks Baron will have all season, but don’t expect the magnitude of the situation to get to him.

“I’ve never heard him say a bad word on the court or get frustrated,” Al says. “That’s just not his temperament. ... He’s hard to read, which is really good for tennis though because you can’t shake him.”

Baron doesn’t doubt that he could sweep three sets against Valencia. He doesn’t doubt that he could play the sport at a higher level, especially since 16 colleges have already shown interest him.

And although his long-term passion is photography, it’s tennis that has opened to the door to so many opportunities and friendships.

“He told me, ‘I know I’m not going to be a pro, I know I don’t want to teach tennis at the Paseo Club or anything like that, but I want it to be a big part of my education,’” Al says.


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