Vikings love their numbers
You’d never know that the South Tahoe High girls tennis team has struggled through a stretch where they’ve had five different coaches in six years.
A record 30 girls came out for the team, prompting co-coaches Pat Fagen and Sabrina Zalles to hold early morning and late afternoon workouts daily.
The extra work has been warmly accepted by the Vikings.
“In the past, we usually had like one practice three or four days a week. This year, we’ve had two practices four days a week,” said captain Larissa LaRue.
For Fagen, resurrecting the girls program has become a priority.
“Coach Zalles and I are looking to bring some stability to the program,” said Fagen, who also serves as the Viking boys coach. “We’re really focused on getting the program up. I have a lot more kids in the developmental program who are girls, so the girls are going to be really strong for the next five years.”
That strength may or may not materialize this season.
“We have a lot of good players and a lot of depth, but we really don’t have any standout players,” Fagen said.
In singles, LaRue, a junior, will enter today’s opener at Truckee as the Vikings’ No. 1 seed.
Holding the second and third spots are junior Samantha Crosson and senior Kate McConnell.
“They may not be able to match up with the top girls in the league because of their lack of experience, but they’re as strong of a three as any team would have overall,” Fagen said.
In doubles, the Vikings may possess the zone’s best returning duo in senior Shauna Hixenbaugh and sophomore Kelly Haslam. Last year, they advanced to the zone semifinals.
“That was great,” Fagen said. “Hopefully they’ll gel as the season goes along, and I would expect them to have a good shot at winning zone this year.”
Earning the Vikings’ No. 2 doubles position are junior Carla Jett-Pearce and sophomore Sarah Segel. It’s anybody’s guess who will nail down the third spot with Chelsea Grabham and Lauren Shue battling it out with Christy Ford and Crystal Gibbons. Karen Dalmacio, Saleen Hancock, Elyse Jones and Sarah Schwartz are also contending for doubles berths.
“We have a lot of depth on the team and we think we’ll do quite well this year,” Zalles said. “The girls have shown a lot of enthusiasm and dedication for the season.”
The commitment of Fagen and Zalles has the Vikings upbeat.
“I’m really pleased with the turnout, pleased with the coaches and I hope to have a really good season, which I know we will because we have a good team and we have it all together,” LaRue said.
Viking boys rebuilding
Following a postseason appearance last year, Fagen is hoping his returning players can make the rebuilding process as brief as possible.
Five regulars are gone from the 2000 team that went 8-2 and lost to Galena in the first round of the zone tournament. Still, Fagen believes there’s enough remaining talent to stay among the league leaders.
“Overall, we lack depth, but I expect us to be in the top third of zone,” Fagen said. “We need some of our younger players to step up and contribute.”
Like the girls squad, doubles appears to be the boys’ strength. No. 1 team Parker Alexander, a senior, and Garrett Moulton, a junior, return.
“I expect good things from them. I think they have a chance to win zone,” Fagen said.
They pose problems for opponents because they are lefty-righty combination.
“This helps them with a lot of different things like covering the court and two different styles of serves coming at you,” Fagen said.
Alexander was on the top-seeded doubles team a year ago, while Moulton played as a third seed.
“Garrett came on strong this summer, so we teamed them up,” Fagen said.
That pairing is really starting to click, according to Alexander.
“We practiced today and we were on fire,” said Alexander, who was fourth at zone last year. “We’ve been practicing together the last few weeks and we’re really getting used to each other.”
Junior Mikey Ledesma, who was paired with Moulton last year, returns to anchor the No. 2 team. He’ll be paired with freshman Jason Schmedes, who Fagen calls “the best freshman we’ve had come along in a while.”
Spots on the No. 3 team are up for grabs, with Brian Stamme, Sean Nelson, Luke Palmieri and Marcale Jones vying for playing time.
Corrie Lindsey is the only returning regular singles player. Lindsey, last year’s third seed, has been promoted to No. 1. Newcomer Chris Filipko, a junior, has been one of the fall’s big surprises and has nailed down the second seed. Troy Sutton and Drew Ranking are contending to become the third seed.
While the boys squad is less than half the size of the girls, Fagen likes what he sees to this point.
“We’re down a little this year, but we’ve got a good group,” said Fagen of his 13 players. “They’ve been working hard, so I expect them to do well this year.”
Coaches: Pat Fagen, sixth year; Sabrina Zalles, first year.
Last year: boys, 8-2, lost in first round of zone tournament; girls, fifth in league.
Opener: Girls at Truckee today; boys at home vs. Truckee today.
Quote: “We’re really focused on getting the program up. I have a lot more kids in the developmental program who are girls, so the girls are going to be really strong for the next five years,” Fagen said.
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