The high school girls tennis season hit the midway point last week and Scotts Valley High is starting to peak at the right time.
As of Wednesday, the Falcons were 4-2 in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play and they are 5-2 overall this season. They began the second half of the league season tied with Aptos for first place.
Sophomore Stella Cheney lost the deciding game to Soquel High’s Aly Kosek in three sets (1-6, 6-4, 7-5) to give the Knights the 4-3 team win on Oct. 14.
The loss is a minor setback for the Falcons but they’re still in the race for a league title.
Second-year coach Scott Goodrich said they realize there’s plenty of challenging matches remaining and this group embraces those challenges while remaining humble but hungry.
“As a coach, I don’t base success on wins and losses,” he said. “I base success on playing hard, learning, improving and having fun. And that’s exactly what this team is doing this season.”
Freshman Gabrielle Casper started the season in the No. 1 spot and she has stayed there ever since. She said she has felt no outside pressure while playing as the Falcons’ top singles player.
“That’s something that I really want to do for myself, not really for the team,” she said. “I know the team will support me no matter how I do, but I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to do well because I am the No. 1 and I have to do it for my team, not only for myself.”
Goodrich said that Casper is a very polished player for her age and is emerging as one of the top players in the SCCAL. Her only loss to date is to three-time league champion Tallia Harper of Santa Cruz High.
She’s also the latest member of the Casper family to hit the local high school tennis scene. Her sisters—Caroline, Claire and Katherine—were standouts at St. Francis High of Watsonville, and her brother, Luke, was a multiple-time Central Coast Section champion at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose.
Luke is now a freshman playing at Texas A & M.
“I think it’s just in the genes, honestly,” Gabrielle said. “We all just really, really love it and it’s something that we all love to do. We love all sports but tennis is definitely something that we’re very good at and it’s just something that we all bond over.”
Junior Emma Dyc-O’Neal, who is one of the most consistent players on the team, occupies the No. 2 spot.
Next in the order is junior Veronica Farquhar, one of the hardest hitters on the team who also has a steady shot. In the No. 4 spot is Cheney, who is probably one of the team’s fastest players and continues to improve each week.
Goodrich said they have the luxury of having four solid singles players this year and that’s a big reason for their success. He added that the group can beat each other on any given day, which makes for great “in-house” competition.
In doubles play, it’s junior Livia Johnston and freshman Sofia Niklaus in the top spot. Goodrich calls them a quiet tandem with loads of potential who have only played three matches together due to Niklaus’ wrist injury.
Senior co-captain Liz Bahr and sophomore Samantha Warner are in the No. 2 spot. They are a highly energetic pair whose only loss to date was against the Mariners.
Senior Liat Weinstein, the other co-captain, and sophomore Maya Bensen are in the No. 3 spot.
Goodrich said the other thing he likes about this squad is that they have great team depth.
The supporting cast includes freshman Erin Szymanski, sophomores Kendal Wright and Sophia Sebring and juniors Alexa Gandrup and Molly Berman.
There’s also senior exchange student Marta Chiodo and senior Fatima Ramirez, both who are playing in their first year of tennis.
Szymanski and Gandrup have both played varsity matches this year and gained valuable experience. Goodrich said the rest of the team continues to improve on a daily basis.
Goodrich, who has also served as the boys’ coach for the past two years, led the girls’ team to a 4-6 record in league play during the abbreviated 2021 spring season.
They also had 17 players, which was great considering the shortened Covid-19 season.
Goodrich said they lost seven seniors to graduation but he’s excited about the returning undergraduates from last year’s team. He added that the influx of a talented and energetic new group has led to an overall deeper team.
“It’s exciting to be part of such a great group of student-athletes,” he said.
Goodrich said the race for this year’s league title is quite balanced and that makes for exciting tennis. He mentioned that each team in the league has talented players and while Aptos certainly remains the team to beat, there are others such as Soquel, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley that are all solid contenders.
Casper believes that they do have a group of talented, hard-working players that have a chance of making a run for the league title.
“I really just want to compete well and I hope we all compete well,” she said. “It would be amazing to have that title, but either way I think we’re an amazing team.”