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Foothill League tennis holds serve

Posted: March 18, 2008 1:34 a.m.
Updated: May 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Jack Zapala, the No. 1 singles player for Valencia hits a forehand shot in practice on Monday. Zapala was the Foothill League singles champion last season.

 
The view from the top this year looks about the same as last year in boys tennis.

There isn't a lot of mystery as to who you have to go through to win the Foothill League. The talent at the top looks pretty similar to 2007.

That includes Jack Zapala of Valencia, who won the league singles title last year. His teammate Tyler Gottshall is back for a sophomore campaign, playing No. 2 singles behind Zapala.

Jordan Hovis of West Ranch, who gave Zapala a run for his money in the singles title match last season, is also back.

And while the individual talent looks familiar, so does the team to beat. Valencia has the talent and depth to make it three straight league titles. The Vikings are winners of five out of the last six years in the Foothill. League play opens today.

The Vikings are off to a good start and are 11-1 heading into their first league contest. Their only loss so far came to Calabasas on March 12.

After Zapala and Gottshall will be Jimmy Kim at the No. 3 singles, a player who Vikings head coach Annie Kellogg said has made huge strides since last season.

"We have a really good 1-2-3 punch in singles," said Vikings head coach Annie Kellogg. "Jimmy Kim has really improved a lot. All of a sudden he's my No. 3 singles guy."

Kellogg hasn't set her entire doubles squad yet, but Michael Stewart and Cameron Phillips are a duo returning from last season. Newcomers Ben Inchalik and Ronny Kimelman will be pairing up in doubles this season.

Matt Kuratomi played doubles last season for the Vikings but has been out all of 2008 so far after spraining his ankle a day before the Vikings' season opener. He got off crutches late last week and when he's healthy, should be playing doubles.

The team that may be in the best position to challenge Valencia this season is West Ranch, who returns all of their players from the 2007 squad. It is the first year West Ranch has a senior class.

It was a surprising finish for the Wildcats in 2007, who earned second place in the first varsity season in program history.

The league will have an early glimpse of the top two returning teams when West Ranch and the Vikings meet up today at West Ranch High.

Hovis will be leading the way for the Wildcats.

"You've always got to like what Jordan's doing," said first-year head coach Eric Spiecker. "There's a lot of eyes on Jordan this year. He basically challenged every top singles player in this valley (last year). My guess is all eyes will be on him and what he can do as a junior."

Behind Hovis in singles is a solid No. 2 in Beau Martin, who is also a basketball player for the Wildcats. The No. 1 doubles team for West Ranch is Kevin Harmon and Jeremy Ramirez.

The team that seems to be generating a lot of talk is Canyon, a team that many coaches think will improve on last year's finish of fifth place. Freshman Jason Ferlianto has been a strong addition to the Cowboys.

"He's like a backboard," said first-year head coach Edgar Perfecto. "He'll return any ball that you give him."

Another new addition is Chase Lindvall, who is a senior but didn't play last season.

While Canyon has a senior-heavy team with a lot of varsity experience, Hart has only three returners from last season.

The Indians' losses to graduation included No. 1 singles player Otto Degrieff.

Garrett Russikoff is the top returner from last year, but he's coming off an injury he suffered late in the 2007 tennis season. He broke a bone in his back and just had his brace taken off in late January. Russikoff was cleared to serve only two weeks ago. Head coach Chris Mansfield has been impressed with the play of Russikoff coming off the injury.

The team is 0-6 heading into today's matchup on the road at Saugus, but played a tough schedule that Mansfield hopes will help his young team heading into league play.

"This is something new for me, having so many new players," Mansfield said. "The key will be the doubles play, definitely. And how fast Garrett comes around."

Saugus and Golden Valley also have young squads. Saugus lost Mike Bingham, the team's top singles player from last season. The Centurions have just three returners this season.

The top singles player for the Grizzlies is Elbert Payra. Golden Valley has just two seniors and one junior.

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