Benefield: Maria Carrillo girls tennis looking to extend dominance
Maria Carrillo girls tennis coach Bob Klyce had a get-to-know-you event for the team on the eve of the season. It was the usual — introductions, maybe a quick bit of biographical information or something funny revealed about each player.
As a slew of talented freshmen introduced themselves, each said when she’d started playing tennis. The most common answers were 4 years old, 5 years old, maybe a late bloomer at 6.
“(One player) said she started late, she started at 7,” Klyce recalled. “They all started laughing.”
Such is the roster of the 2019 Pumas that those who started playing tennis at 7 are considered newbies.
“Their foundation is extraordinary,” Klyce said.
The team that dominated the North Bay League-Oak Division last season lost not one of their top singles players to graduation. The Pumas’ No. 1, Sophia Nguyen, is just a junior, as is their No. 2 player, Teresa Liang. No. 3 is sophomore Vaska Wysocki and their No. 4 is senior Mia Bittner.
“We just got a lot of incoming freshmen that are insanely good,” Nguyen said. “So we were already good before with our top half and our doubles, but now our freshmen came in and they really filled up our doubles, so we have a solid lineup throughout the team even into exhibition.”
“We have, I’d say, a pretty good chance of winning sectionals, but we’ll see,” she said.
Last year the Pumas earned the No. 12 seed (and a home match in the opening round thanks to being league champs) in the Division 1 NCS tournament but fell 5-2 to No. 5 seed Tamalpais High.
“Last year we won NBLs and moved on to NCS but unfortunately lost in the first round of NCS, so I’m thinking that we want to defend the NBL title and also move on farther in NCS this year,” Bittner said. “I think we can make it to NCS finals. We have a really strong team, a really young team too. We have a lot of new, young talent in doubles right now. I think there is a lot of potential.”
Their league rivals openly acknowledge the strength of the Pumas’ roster. Most of the top players play club tennis, so coaches and athletes know the strength of the top singles players around.
“They are solid,” Cardinal Newman head coach Tony Greco said. “Right now, their top four is pretty tough.”
The Cardinals, who boast one of the top singles players around in junior Georgina Sierocinski, suffered a blow when she went down with a foot injury. She’s expected to be out for weeks, Greco said.
In the meantime, senior Isabella Brunner has moved to the Cardinals’ No. 1 and junior Katrina Swenson-Aguirre will play second. Jenna Rafla-Yuan is likely at the three spot and Isabella Blakely is projected to play fourth.
“We are building and rebuilding and trying to get stronger,” Greco said. “We are going to just give them a fight.”
Another squad that is focused on rebuilding is Montgomery. The Vikings are without the services of sophomore Georgia Beard, the defending North Bay League singles champ, who chose not to play high school tennis this season.
“We are building. We are all beginners,” Vikings coach Joshua Silverman said.