Tennis

Santa Cruz’s Tallia Harper eyes third straight title

www.santacruzsentinel.com

Girls tennis in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League is ready to roll. Two-time defending singles champion Tallia Harper of Santa Cruz, now a junior, and powerful teams from Aptos and Soquel are scheduled to take the court this week. The season will include SCCAL and Central Coast Section playoffs.

Harper dominated the SCCAL last year, dropping only five games in 10 league matches and never losing a set. In the CCS playoffs, she lost to eventual champion Kate Duong of Cupertino, who won the crown with four sweeps and now plays at University of Illinois.

“Our number one, Tallia Harper, is probably the best player in the area,” said new Santa Cruz head coach Josh Mason, who played at UC Santa Cruz. “She plays tournaments outside of high school and is just on a different level.  She’s a great athlete, fast and strong. Her hand-eye coordination allows her to pick up the ball and take a good cut at it. Thus, she gets her weight behind the ball and it goes faster and has more spin.”

Soquel High tennis player Maya Van Ness reached the SCCAL singles final in 2019. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel file)

Aptos and Soquel both have deep strong teams and experience and are favorites for the SCCAL team title. The league configuration has been tweaked and includes two tiers of county schools. A five-team division includes Aptos, Soquel, Santa Cruz, Monte Vista Christian School and Scotts Valley. The second division includes Harbor, San Lorenzo Valley, Watsonville, St. Francis and one “shared” team. Pajaro Valley was penciled in for that slot but later declined and their place on the schedule will be shared by alternating appearances from the Aptos and Soquel junior-varsity teams.

Each team will play one crossover match in its five-match season, which begins Tuesday and runs through mid-April. The CCS will then conduct a 24-team single-elimination competition beginning May 18 and concluding on May 28.

Singles and doubles competition will be conducted by the CCS with a 16-person tournament on June 2-3.

Aptos won the SCCAL team competition last year with a 10-0 record and has a solid shot at a repeat crown.

Rebecca Fuller, a freshman, sits atop top Aptos’ singles, senior Juliet Sweet is at No. 2 and followed by sophomore Autumn Zaretsky and senior Madison James.

““The top four are all really close,”  Aptos coach Linda Hitchcock said. “I have two really good doubles players in Annika Lee and Holly Hegna. Annika was runner-up in doubles last year.”

Soquel leads with senior Maya Van Ness, who lost the SCCAL final to Harper 6-1, 6-2, and follows with exciting freshman Ila Garcia.

“My team is looking pretty good,” Soquel coach Betsy Maushardt said. “I’ve got a number one player (Van Ness) who is probably second in league behind the Santa Cruz girl Tallia Harper. Both of Maya’s parents are tennis pros. My number two player is Ila Garcia, an incoming freshman, and she is a person to watch. My number one doubles team of seniors Bridget Baskerville and Mariah Montanez is looking really good.”

Scott Goodrich, who coached the Scotts Valley boys tennis team last year, is taking over the helm of the girls squad this season. His team is led by four-year varsity player and co-captain Helen Elmer at No. 1 singles and sophomore Veronica Farquhar at No. 2 singles. Senior co-captain Miranda Larson and junior Liz Bahr are the top doubles pair for the Falcons.

“Helen is a great team leader and a crafty player,” Goodrich said. “Veronica is a young and talented singles player who hits the ball hard and has loads of potential.”

Harbor is solid and has depth behind Asha Lawson, Jimena Leyva, Isabel Perroud and Zulma Ramirez in singles.

“Asha has a cannonball serve that she is dialing in,” Pirates coach Hollis O’Brien said. “Jimena keeps the ball in play and is consistent at her serves and ground attack. Both should play well this season.”

San Lorenzo Valley will be led by Tessa Jacquerot, Kendall Fournier, Karla Struthers and Adriana Noce.

“SLV will be the team with the biggest roar and hopefully the highest score,” Cougars coach Matthew O’Brien said.

Players and coaches alike are happy to be back on the court during the pandemic.

“The kids are so happy to get out and practice,” Hitchcock said, “to hit balls, to serve, to work on conditioning. It’s the best attendance I’ve ever had at practice.”

Soquel’s Hitchcock echoed those feelings.

“We’re pretty excited to get this season started,” Hitchcock said. “I’m really glad for my seniors to get to finish out their fourth year.”

SCCAL OPENERS

Tuesday; 3 p.m.
Aptos at MVC
Soquel at Santa Cruz
Scotts Valley at St. Francis
SLV at Watsonville
Harbor at Soquel JV

ONES TO WATCH

Tallia Harper, Santa Cruz, Jr.:  Unbeaten through two years of SCCAL play; did not drop a single set in league last year.
Maya Van Ness, Soquel, Sr.: Top Knights’ singles player has great lineage; father David coaches Cabrillo and mother Melissa was a world-ranked professional player.
Rebecca Fuller, Aptos, Fr.: One of two SCCAL freshman stars; likely to be at #1 singles for Mariners.
Ila Garcia, Soquel, Fr.: SCCAL freshman star slots in behind Van Ness in Soquel singles lineup.
Juliet Sweet, Aptos, Sr.: Hard hitter gives Mariners a formidable singles quartet that is a big advantage in team competition.
Bridget Baskerville, Soquel, Sr.: Four-year varsity standout will play #1 doubles for Knights.
Autumn Zaretsky, Aptos, So.: Shifting from doubles to singles; father is tennis pro at Tennis Club of Rio Del Mar.
Annika Lee, Aptos, Jr.: Paired with Madison James to finish second in SCCAL doubles last year behind Aptos twins Lila and Rebecca Sampson.
Helen Elmer, Scotts Valley, Sr.:  Elmer was the only Falcons winner in 6-1 loss to Aptos last year and it came at #1 singles.
Asha Lawson, Harbor, Sr.:  Big hitter for Harbor’s tennis team and standout flute player in Pirates’ band.

 

 

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