STHS girls eye new racket: beating Galena and Reno |

STHS girls eye new racket: beating Galena and Reno

Steve Yingling

Pat Fagen’s talented girls tennis team at South Tahoe High won’t have to wait long to find how good it is in 2005.

The Vikings open their season by playing road matches at last year’s regional finalists Galena (today) and Reno (on Thursday). South Tahoe, a regional semifinalist a year ago, has never beaten the Reno schools but has closed the gap in recent years.

“We are an excellent team and well-prepared,” Fagen said. “They need to go out and show them how good we are. Sooner or later, the race goes to the team that is better prepared and thinks it can win.”

Galena ousted the Vikings 31-14 in the 2004 regional semifinals, but the Sierra Division runner-up let several tight matches slip away.

“Sometimes we have the mentality that ‘Oh god, we’re gonna be beaten,’ but we have really been working on our court attitude to be stronger and know that we can go out there and beat them,” said senior co-captain McKensie Pimley.

Rather than let another opportunity like that pass them by, the Vikings have wholeheartedly devoted themselves to the game in the offseason. The entire 24-player team attended voluntary workouts before school ended and continued them throughout the summer.

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“I don’t think they know what’s gonna hit them,” said senior captain Katie Killebrew. “A lot of us don’t play in tournaments down in Reno, so they really haven’t played us.

“There’s not a harder starting schedule. I don’t know if we’ve beaten Reno in 30 years, but I think we’ve got a really good shot this year.”

Fagen is excited about the possibilities, knowing his girls did all they could to prepare for the season.

“I am certain that there isn’t another team who has worked as hard as a group the past few months as our girls,” Fagen said. “They have improved immensely. This is the most talented and deepest team we have had since I’ve been here.”

They’ve even embraced the 7 a.m. workouts and double practices twice a week.

“That just goes to show you how hard we’re practicing,” Pimley said. “We’ve had eight-hour days. It’s been hard work, but now we know we can beat these teams.”

South Tahoe returns eight of nine starters, including No. 1 singles player Masha Long. Long gave Galena a sampling of the team’s improved play by defeating the Grizzlies’ No. 2 singles player Sierra Leeder for the first time in a Reno tournament earlier this month. Leeder was the league runner-up to teammate Laura Burgarello, a two-time defending state champion.

“Laura has never lost a set in the league, but Masha has the talent, game and ability to compete with her,” Fagen said.

Long has become a more aggressive, attacking player after spending the summer working with STHS assistant coach Justin Clark.

“If she stays focused and avoids a bad match, I expect her to finish in the top two,” Fagen said.

Sophomore Jade Copple and Pimley are holding down the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots. Like Long, Copple enjoys attacking her opponent and confuses them with chips shots. Pimley uses smarts and competitiveness to succeed, Fagen said.

“The three as a group make a tough matchup for opponents due to their diversity of styles,” Fagen said.

Pimley said the team benefits from having two dedicated coaches in Fagen and Clark.

“They both have a different game and having both influences makes our game stronger,” Pimley said.

Other singles players to watch are freshman Jenny Wiseman, sophomore Alicia Mason and senior Sydney Dufty.

South Tahoe’s depth takes over on the doubles courts. Killebrew and sophomore Cierra Rawlings are the Vikings’ No. 1 team, followed by junior Lauren Sannazzaro and sophomore Chela Wahl at No. 2 and Jenny Schmedes, a junior, and sophomore McKenzie Usher at No. 3.

“We have five or six doubles teams that could start for most other schools,” Fagen said. “I think we have three teams that could contend for the zone and possibly state championship.”

Not far behind the top six doubles players are freshmen Savannah Cherry, Simone Sannazzaro and Hannah Kropf; sophomore Brooke Borges and seniors Lizzy Goldenberg and Ally Abicht.

If Fagen was the schedule maker, he wouldn’t consider changing the one-two punch with Galena and Reno to start the season.

“I am glad that we get them back to back and early in the season this year as I think we will be better prepared,” Fagen said. “They had better be ready to play us or they are in for a surprise. Our girls are ready for the challenge. I expect us to come out strong and do very well against both teams.”

Ultimately, the Vikings are aiming to achieve something no other girls’ tennis team at the school has done.

“We want to play the best we can and eventually go to state,” Pimley.

They have missed too much early morning sleep to achieve any less.

Vikings’ schedule

Date Opponent Time

Today At Galena 3 p.m.

Sept. 1 At Reno 3 p.m.

Sept. 6 DOUGLAS 3 p.m.Sept. 8 HUG 3 p.m.

Sept. 13 At Carson 3 p.m.

Sept. 15 At Wooster 3 p.m.

Sept. 20 N. TAHOE 3 p.m.

Sept. 22 At Damonte 3 p.m.

Sept. 27 N. VALLEYS 3 p.m.

Sept. 29 TRUCKEE 3 p.m.

Oct. 4-15 Regionals TBA

Oct. 20 State TBA


Coach: Pat Fagen, third year (10th overall)

Last year: 9-2, runner-up in Sierra Division, regional semifinalist

Keys to season: Can Vikings gain the necessary confidence by beating a top-flight team like Reno or Galena

Top retuners: junior singles player Masha Long, sophomore singles player Jade Copple, senior singles player McKensie Pimley, senior doubles player Katie Killebrew, junior doubles player Jenny Schmedes, junior doubles player Lauren Sannazzaro and sophomore doubles player Chela Wahl.

Opener: Today at Galena