Two major demons were conquered, and now Xavier girls tennis could move closer to being what its Brophy boys peers have become.
Those demons (in no particular order) were Salpointe Catholic and winning a state championship.
It’s not like Xavier was in some kind of “drought.” The Gators dominated tennis (especially the team and doubles championships) in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Salpointe (and Mountain View in 2008) had become the bane of the Gators by knocking off Xavier in either the semifinals or finals in four of the past five years (three times in the finals and once in the semifinals).
In 2012, there was a toppling at the top when Xavier beat Salpointe in the semifinals (then Chaparral in the championship match), led by a Gators team with no seniors on the roster.
Xavier won its previous championship in 2003, and freshman Madison Clarke was runner-up to Salpointe’s Courtney Amos. With nearly everyone back, Clarke and teammates’ quest to win a singles title at Xavier since Sarah Duncan in 1996 will continue this year. Maggie Cohen and Scarlet Rush won the Division I doubles championship and both will again be integral parts of the Gators’ revving toward a repeat.
The East Valley will again be loaded with championship contenders in team play as well as singles and doubles come tournament time with Chaparral, Hamilton, Desert Mountain and perhaps Corona del Sol, but Division II and Division III could be tougher. Notre Dame (Div. II) has almost always a been a title contender under Shelley Dinges, and Arcadia could also make a deep run, but the Tucson schools (Catalina Foothills and defending-champion Ironwood Ridge) often seem to finish one notch ahead.
Teams to Watch
Basha: The Bears lost a slew of tight matches last season, but with four of six starters returning this year as sophomores (plus a freshman and a couple seniors) the Bears remains very young as they aim for a first trip to the team state tournament in school history.
Chaparral: Nadine Leduc’s group returns five regulars (all seniors) from last year’s runner-up finish. There’s lots of talent and depth here to give Xavier a push.
Corona del Sol: Though a bit short on tournament experience, the Aztecs have long been a winning program under Carol Sandvig and have a senior-heavy lineup but a couple strong freshmen coming up.
Hamilton: A top contender to de-throne Xavier led by senior Lidia Csernak, a three-time state semifinalist in singles, and fellow senior Rizzi Wise. The Huskies have solid experience returning
Mountain View: Demi Daniels and Maizy Porter are a top-notch doubles team, and one of the best 1-2 singles combos in the state, especially if Porter recovers on schedule from recent hand surgery.
Williams Field: Cynthia Smith’s squad lost Sierra Gray, arguably the best player in school history, but has a stable of underclassmen waiting in the wings once they gain experience.
Xavier: Five starters back from last year’s championship team. Besides Clarke and the duo of Maggie Cohen and Scarlet Rush, Emily Serrano and Madison Majerle provide leadership
Players to Watch
Basha: Rahgan Jensen, So.; Jewel Bundrett, So.; Katelynd Lesueur, So.; Chayse Olson, Fr.;
Chandler: Riley Desper, Sr.; Rachel Groff, Sr.; Julia Ortiz, So.; Devangi Shah, Jr.;
Chaparral: Ally Breece, Sr.; Gabbi Chernak, Sr.; Meredith Finn, Sr.; Hannah Doseck, Sr.; Sarah Downey, Sr.;
Corona del Sol: Maia Castiglione, Sr.; Hannah Pfotenhauer, Sr.; Sarah Rutkowski, Jr.; Tien Tran, Sr.; Joyce Wen, Sr.;
Desert Mountain: Mary Frances Byron, Jr.;
Desert Vista: Melissa Kahn, So.;
Hamilton: Lidia Csernak, Sr.; Jaimi Foster, So.; Marissa Gautier, Jr.; Rizzi Wise, Sr.;
Mountain View: Demi Daniels, Sr.; Hanna Nelson, So.; Maizy Porter, Sr.
Notre Dame: Caitlin Railson, Jr.;
Skyline: Kyrstal Ybarra, Sr.;
Williams Field: Whitney Broderick, Jr.; Kathleen Murphy, Jr.; Kaycee Tittle, Sr;
Xavier: Madison Clarke, So.; Maggie Cohen, Jr.; Savannah Koss, Jr.; Madison Majerle, Sr.; Scarlet Rush, Jr.; Emily Serrano, Sr.
March 1-2: East Valley Invitational tournament (at Gene Autry Sports Complex)
March 1-2: Kiwanis tournament (at Paseo Racquet Center)
March 16: Husky Invitational (at Horizon H.S.)
April 5-6: Chandler-Hamilton Invitational (at Chandler H.S.)
April 12-13: Scottsdale District Tournament (at Chaparral H.S. and Desert Mountain H.S.)
April 19: State tournaments begin (singles/doubles)
April 24: State tournaments begin (team)
April 27: Championship matches at Paseo Racquet Center (singles/doubles)
May 4: Championship matches at Paseo Racquet Center (team)
Basha senior Luz Garcia is a 2-year captain who's also an accomplished chef. She also does charitable work with National Honors Society and, this year, has organized a charity tournament, “Tennis for Heart”, to raise money for the American Heart Association. She will be attending the University of Arizona this fall.
Tina Cueto takes over the Skyline girls program. She spent the previous 11 years coaching the Tucson Sahuarita boys teams, and will have No. 1 player Krystal Ybarra to lean on for leadership with a young Coyotes squad.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.