Court of appeal
One team is gunning for a shot at the top. The other’s trying to snag a sixth straight Pacific View League championship.
Although the girls’ tennis squads at Camarillo and Rio Mesa high schools appear miles apart, they’re not that different.
Both schools field talented rosters, and both expect to finish within the top of the league standings.
Here’s a closer look at each team:
The Scorpions are rising like a rocket ship across the ethereal stardust of the NGC 2770 galaxy, 90 million light years from earth.
Camarillo, of course, will do most of its damage on terrestrial surfaces.
“Every year, my girls have good team spirit and a positive outlook for every match,” she said. “They always go in with a good, aggressive behavior.”
The Scorpions hope to sweep Oxnard this year after earning a split in 2010. A top-two PVL finish is in the equation.
They have their sights set on Rio Mesa, too.
“We have the same goals every year,” the coach said. “We’d love to come in first. We’d love to beat Rio Mesa.
“We’re always trying to get to the CIF (playoffs), maintain our stamina on the court and make our mental game stronger.”
Despite graduating seven players, Camarillo welcomes back junior Erika Yoon and sophomore Christina Choi at the top two singles spots.
Yoon is aggressive offensively, keeping the ball in play and breaking down foes with her mental fortitude. Choi is also mentally strong.
“They both really know how to set up a good shot and set up a winner,” Grafenstein said.
Freshman Sara Downey has earned a spot at No. 3 singles with her fearlessness. Downey fights for every point.
Britney Rossi and Betty Stearn, a pair of juniors, are a force at No. 1 doubles.
“They complement each other,” Grafenstein said of Rossi and Stearn. “One works well at the net. One works well at baseline.
“They communicate really well together.”
Monica Choudhury and Katie Muklevicz form a solid No. 2 doubles tandem.
The seniors scamper for every ball on the court.
“They’re headstrong,” the coach said of Choudhury and Muklevicz.
“Being stubborn is a good thing in sports. They definitely want to win and you can see it out on the court.”
Grafenstein enjoys watching her team develop.
“They work hard for everything,” she said. “We all have the same goal in mind.”
The Spartans are queen lionesses, prowling the savannah grasslands for prey.
Rio Mesa is an established powerhouse at the top of the food chain—and nearly everyone’s back for a buffet of Scorpions, Yellowjackets, Raiders, Tritons and Vikings.
“We’ve got everyone returning from the starting lineup of seasoned veterans,” said head coach Steve Worthington, who is in his 22nd season guiding the Spartans.
“Outside the lines, I’m very pleased with the bonding and unity on our team. There’s a common focus and spirit that the girls bring to our sport. It’s wonderful to see all these girls coming together as a unified team.”
The Spartans entered the week 5-0. In addition to trotting out an experienced lineup, they’ve added three talented freshmen.
Jenna Dobrin has been the “face of Rio Mesa for a couple of years,” Worthington said.
The senior captain is a fine leader who plays consistent, tough tennis. She was a major doubles contributor on the 24-1 Spartan squad that reached the 2009 section finals.
“She’s a mature, responsible girl who communicates well and doesn’t seek the limelight,” the coach said of Dobrin, the No. 2 singles standout.
“Her great strength is twofold: No. 1, it’s her consistency and never-give-up attitude. The other thing is a strong point not only in tennis but in life—she has a certain poise about her.
“She keeps everything in a positive perspective.”
Audrey Mayer, a sophomore, is a versatile student-athlete with powerful swings at No. 1 singles.
Seniors Elyza Baltazar and Krista Gerdts and sophomore Rachel Dobrin, Jenna’s sister, rotate at No. 3 singles. When one suits up at singles, the others team up at doubles, providing flexibility.
Serena Chow and Nadira Chu work well together at doubles.
The juniors are consistent players who can overcome deficits.
Jackie and Lexy Newberry, senior twins, get the job done at No. 3 doubles.
Although the sisters have played together for most of four years, Worthington’s not afraid to mix up the lineup to keep things fresh.
Rachel Zook, a junior, is a stable force. Sophomore Emily Dykes provides depth.
Freshmen Sarah Alweiss, Natalie Mayer and Joanna Birns—the younger sister of Sam Birns, the top player for RMHS boys’ tennis— are promising youngsters.
“It’s a pleasure to have them on board,” the coach said of the three freshmen. “Their spirit is welcoming to the team, and the team has accepted them as sisters.
“They’re going to be a force for Rio Mesa tennis for years to come.”
John Distad has assisted Worthington for 19 seasons.
The Spartans are excited to see what happens next.
“When the dust settles at the end of the day, we’re going to be measured by our performance on the court,” Worthington said.
“Words don’t mean much, but action is supreme.”