Benefield: Trio of talented girls tennis players vie to be best in North Bay League-Oak Division
The battle for supremacy in North Bay League-Oak Division girls’ tennis is going to be about as good and fierce as tennis fans might wish for with the No. 1 players from Maria Carrillo, Cardinal Newman and Montgomery expected to produce some memorable head-to-head battles.
Ask the coaches from those three squads and the same names come up when talking about contenders for the top player in the league: Maria Carrillo sophomore Sophia Nguyen, Cardinal Newman sophomore Georgina Sierocinski and Montgomery freshman Georgia Beard.
The frontrunner? It’s hard to say both because all three are young and because it’s so early in the season.
“A lot of them play similar styles,” said Cardinal Newman coach Tony Greco. “It’s whoever can hit hard and consistent from the baseline and take advantage.”
Carrillo’s No. 1 Nguyen didn’t lose a league match all season last year and didn’t get felled until she hit the North Coast Section tournament.
“She is going to be hard to beat,” Pumas coach Bob Klyce said. “She has a picture-perfect game. She is just a phenomenal offensive player — tremendous ground strokes, great serve, great volley.”
But Beard, Montgomery’s freshman, is creating some buzz before she’s even hit a ball in North Bay League competition.
“She’s a contender,” Vikings coach Joshua Silverman said. “She has a competitive background in tennis. Her groundstrokes, forehand and backhand are definitely a strong point.”
Some questions will surely be answered this week. Montgomery travels to Maria Carrillo for the NBL-Oak Division opener Thursday. Cardinal Newman will play Carrillo Sept. 27 and then takes on Montgomery Oct. 4.
Defending NBL champs Cardinal Newman lost a number of strong players from last year’s championship squad, but the Cardinals return their No. 1 in Sierocinski.
“George has improved a lot,” Greco said of his No. 1. “She works out a lot with Jose (Hilla) at Sonoma State. She’s gotten a lot fitter, she’s very solid from the baseline; great backhand.”
But the first singles match to watch is this Thursday when Beard and the Vikings travel to Maria Carrillo.
“I think she’s pretty good,” Nguyen said of Beard. “I think she is my biggest challenge.”
So Nguyen’s perfect NBL record in high school will be put to the biggest test right out of the gate. And Nguyen is making no bones about her goals.
“I want to win the NBL again,” she said.
Pumas team captain Cassia Lee is excited about the prospect of a team pennant. She said the growth of the program can be seen not in her rise on the team ladder, but her fall.
“When I got here, I was even playing No. 1 singles,” the senior said. “It shows how much the team has improved.”
Lee is now partners with her sister Aurora, a sophomore, in the No. 1 doubles slot.
But in a tight league chase, especially with a team like Cardinal Newman, those doubles points could come into play. Newman’s Greco is still tinkering with his doubles combinations to see who has the best chance to grab points for the Cardinals.
“Third (doubles) is the big one,” he said. “I’m still trying to find the right combination. I have a lot of girls about the same ability, it just depends on what is the right combination — consistent yet aggressive. Third doubles is a really big spot.”