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West Ranch's Julia Lynch: Rapid ascent

West Ranch sophomore takes over as team’s top singles player

Posted: September 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch sophomore Julia Lynch has taken quickly risen to the No. 1 spot on the team's singles lineup.

 

When West Ranch sophomore Julia Lynch arrived as a freshman last season, it was understandable that she felt like she’d have a few years to get accustomed to high school tennis.

The Wildcats featured an established No. 1 singles player in Ana Cecilia Fuentes, who as just a junior, would lead West Ranch through Lynch’s first two seasons.

That worked well last season, as Fuentes excelled as a No. 1 and Lynch established herself as a valuable back-end singles player as West Ranch went on to win its first outright Foothill League title in school history.

But things look a little different this time around.

Fuentes decided not to return, and the pressure has fallen on Lynch to rise to the occasion a year earlier than expected.

Luckily for the Wildcats, she’s not shying away from the role.

“I was shocked and I mean (Fuentes) was such an amazing No. 1. She was a huge inspiration to me and I just really want to carry on her legacy as No. 1,” Lynch says. “It was a little bit of pressure, but I do feel like I can handle it.”

“I was anticipating more pressure, but I’ve actually been handling it a lot better, and I’m very surprised by myself.”

Last season, as a freshman, Lynch burst onto the Foothill League tennis scene, going 20-7 in league play and was pivotal in the Wildcats’ Oct. 13, 10-8 victory over rival Valencia, sweeping all three of her sets to help West Ranch effectively secure the league title.

What wasn’t as well known, though, was the fact that Lynch had been coming off a strained rotator cuff that required her to sit out six months during her eighth-grade year, and she still wasn’t quite 100 percent during her first high school season.

This summer, fully healed, she’s worked hard to improve her game.

“This year is definitely my kind of official first year as myself again,” Lynch says. “And I wanted to show everybody I could do it, and I put a lot of work in the summer and I feel like it’s going to pay off.”

While it’s still early, those improvements are beginning to show.

“She’s played well,” says West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker. “She’s striking the ball really well and I am impressed with her focus and determination. She’s certainly a more mature player than last year.”

At times during her first season, an early round loss appeared to bring Lynch down.

Lynch says it took her time to get used to the team-scoring system used in high school, where a player competes in three sets per match and has the opportunity to earn three points for her team.

“Actually, I was very surprised about how it wasn’t just about me,” she says. “All my years that I’ve been playing tennis, I’ve been playing (United States Tennis Association) tournaments and it’s always been about me because I’m a singles player. It’s my first time playing team tennis and I wasn’t used to if I lost, someone else would back me up.”

This year, as the team’s No. 1, she’ll be the player counted on to have her teammates’ backs.

And her dynamic play style — she likes to play on the baseline and pick and choose her opportunities to come to the net to finish a point — should help her be successful in league play.

“I feel like it gives me an advantage because the juniors aren’t very good at the net and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at the net,” Lynch says. “And once I get up there, I’ll be able to finish a point quickly.”

Aiding in her development has been her private coach Desi McBride at The Paseo Club in Valencia.

“In terms of hitting the ball, I’ve never seen her hitting the ball better,” McBride says. “She’s always had a good forehand and her backhand would be hit and miss, and it’s gotten really solid.”

On Tuesday, she’ll have her first opportunity to show the Foothill League how much she’s improved — West Ranch travels to Hart in an early season match that could have huge implications.

“It’s all about mental toughness as the No.1 singles player,” she says. “I feel like I have to be very mentally tough and never give up and always be ready for the next one.”

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