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Valencia tennis: The right fit

Longtime friends came together this season to make a difference

Posted: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Valencia seniors Shenelle Trujillo, left, and Michelle Savage, right, have become a dominate force in the Foothill League after teaming up midway through the girls tennis season and finishing as the league’s individual doubles champions.

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By Jon Stein

Signal Staff Writer

 

he Santa Clarita Valley’s top girls tennis doubles team hasn’t been the best for very long.

Not because Valencia seniors Michelle Savage and Shenelle Trujillo haven’t always been good at what they do, it’s just that they’ve never done it together.

That is, not until head coach Annie Kellogg suggested Trujillo move from singles to doubles in an attempt to improve the team’s chances during Foothill League play.

Savage found the idea of playing with her friend immediately appealing. Trujillo, though, had been the No. 2 singles player for the Vikings, and Kellogg left the decision of whether or not to move to doubles up to her.

"Singles was kind of like my home," Trujillo says. "Because that’s where I’ve always been ... I didn’t want to not change just because I would be losing a high-pedestal spot. I wanted to do it to help my team and have a good senior year with my friend."

And the move has paid off.

The two 17-year-old girls, who have been best friends since the first grade, rolled through Foothill League play. The duo lost only one set, to West Ranch’s Gabrielle Morici and Lena Poonnopatam, before rebounding to defeat them in their second league match with the Wildcats. Trujillo and Savage beat them again in the championship match of the Foothill League Tennis Finals.

And now, with the CIF-Southern Section Division III playoffs starting today, Savage and Trujillo will be leaned upon heavily to help the Vikings succeed.

To someone watching the two play, it might look as though they’ve been together forever. But somehow they have never stepped on the court together for doubles play.

And thinking back, it came as somewhat of a surprise even to Trujillo herself.

"Yeah, actually," Trujillo says. "I wish we maybe could have played more tournaments or could have played last year in doubles. But the past is the past and what we did this season was really remarkable."

The two met in their first-grade class at North Park Elementary school in Valencia, where they became friends and have stuck by each other’s side through Rio Norte Middle School and their last four years at Valencia.

Through art classes, Girl Scouts and tennis lessons, the two are still best friends 11 years later.

And that, more than anything, might be the reason they’ve propelled themselves to the top of the Foothill League.

"We know each other’s personalities," Savage says. "I think it helps on the court because it helps with our communication."

So far this season, the duo’s communication has appeared flawless.

With each bringing a distinctive style of play to the court, Trujillo and Savage have found ways to play off each other’s strengths all season.

The taller Savage is known for her presence and competitive fire on the court.

"She’s just got a great aggressive nature, really intimidating," Kellogg says. "In doubles, the intimidation factor is huge. I love it when she gets her feet moving and she has a firecracker in her because when she is, it’s ‘just watch out’ ... That’s what doubles is all about, putting the ball away."

Trujillo, on the other hand, is the calming influence, excelling with a finesse game. She’s always comfortable wearing her opponents down during long rallies.

"It’s a good combination," Savage says, "because she’s really good at making the shots and I’m really good at the put-aways. It’s a good combination to have because it’s consistency and aggressiveness together."

Their different personalities extend off the court, as well.

"Off the court, (Savage) is very laid back and very playful," Trujillo says. "She’s outgoing ... She’s very artistic and she likes to get people together and be with a lot of people. I’m a homebody ... She kind of pushes me and I kind of bring her back, so I think we complement each other."

But don’t confuse Savage’s laid-back attitude with a lack of ambition.

Savage took up art class with Trujillo, and has tried everything from drawing to cutting art.

She enjoys singing, so she joined Valencia’s woman’s choir.

And when it came time to get a first job, Savage chose to umpire softball and baseball at the William S. Hart Complex, because it would challenge her in ways a traditional first job never could.

For Trujillo, tennis is the focus — with a spot on a collegiate tennis team the ultimate goal.

But like Savage, she has spread her skills in a variety of different areas, from tennis to art to writing.

And no matter what the next chapter contains for either girl, they’re excited they had an opportunity to do one of the few things they had never done before.

"Really, really, really happy," Trujillo says. "I knew we could be good, but I didn’t really truly expect that we would be one of the top doubles teams in the Foothill League."

jstein@the-signal.com

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