Vikings rewarded for hard work with playoff berths
League realignment has meant a topspin-turvy prep tennis season, but the picture should come into focus when South Tahoe High begins regionals Friday.
South Tahoe High’s boys and girls teams both qualified for the revamped Northern Nevada 4A Regional Team Championships, and both hit the road Friday to try and advance. South Tahoe’s girls advanced as the third seed from Division II, and travel to Reed (5-1 overall, second in Division I) for a 3 p.m. match. The local boys drew the fourth seed in the region despite tying for second place, and visit Galena (6-0, first in Division I) for a 3 p.m. match.
“We’ve got a tough match,” said South Tahoe boys coach Pat Fagen. “These guys are really good.”
Fagen anticipates a Grizzlies squad that is tough at the top seeds, and solid throughout, in both singles and doubles. Galena’s strength starts with singles ace Andy Sweatt, the top-ranked player in the zone, and Fagen expects the top-seeded Grizzlies doubles team to be tough, too. Fagen hasn’t set his lineup for the match, and is waiting to see how Galena lines up, but probably will move Colin Moulton from singles to doubles for the first time this year. Since doubles games are worth a point and a half, and singles games worth one point, South Tahoe will concentrate on the doubles competition against the Grizzlies.
“We need to put three strong doubles teams together and we need one strong singles player,” Fagen said.
The situation is a little more settled for South Tahoe’s girls when they take on Reed. Seniors Jenny Olson and Nicole Reneer, first and second seeds, respectively, join third-seeded freshman Samantha Crosson in singles competition. Nikki Moore and Lauren Stevens are the top-seeded doubles team, with Lisa Borges and Shawna Hixenbaugh second. Larissa LaRue will be on South Tahoe’s third-seeded doubles team, but head coach Tom Barnes had not decided who will join her.
South Tahoe’s girls seem to thrive under pressure, as they did wrapping the regular-season finale at Incline on Thursday. Moore and Stevens won their final game 7-6 in a 7-2 tiebreaker as the Vikings escaped Incline Village with a half-point win, 11.5-11 and finished 6-3.
“The pressure was on, and they met the challenge,” Barnes said. “The other team wasn’t choking, either.”
Barnes anticipates Reed will have one or two strong singles players and at least one good doubles team. If that’s the case, South Tahoe’s top singles player will need to pick up singles matches, and the top two doubles teams will need to play well.
“I think our chances are good against Reed,” Barnes said. “Reed is a stronger team, but they might be surprised. They don’t understand how we work as a team.”
Both teams have the chance to advance to the next round. With a win, South Tahoe’s boys would draw the winner of Friday’s Douglas-McQueen match in Monday’s semifinals. Douglas would play host to a 3 p.m. Monday semifinal; the match moves to 3:45 p.m. and the Plumas Tennis Complex if South Tahoe draws McQueen. The Viking girls can advance to meet the winner of Douglas (5-2 overall) and Galena (3-2 overall) at 3 p.m. Monday. If South Tahoe’s girls win and draw Douglas, the Vikings travel to Minden because Douglas is the higher seed; if they win and draw Galena, the Vikings travel to Reno, as the Division I team plays host to matches between equal seeds.
“We really try to use the altitude, both in terms of conditioning and our opponents’ unfamiliarity with the lighter air,” Barnes said. “It can turn matches. But that being said, these girls love to travel together. They don’t let a lot of things faze them.”
The Northern Nevada 4A tennis finals match the winners of the two semifinal games for a 3 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the Plumas Tennis Complex. Teams that fail to qualify can send representatives to the zone’s singles and doubles championships Oct. 14-16.
South Tahoe’s boys showed their depth winning their last match before the regional championships, and Fagen anticipates the Vikings’ third seeds will be stronger than Galena’s. After the Vikings wrapped up a spot in the playoffs by beating Douglas on Monday, the Vikings needed a freshman doubles team to come through in the final match against Incline on Wednesday. Keenyn Wallace and Garrett Moulton did just that, providing a 6-1 win for the margin of victory over Incline. South Tahoe finished the regular season 8-2 overall, with their only losses coming at the hands of Wooster and Reno.
“The depth helps us throughout the season,” Fagen said. “Most teams have several good players and then a drop-off after. We have our starting team, and a few others are just as good.”
Some would say South Tahoe’s boys got a raw deal, ending up with the fourth seed via a tiebreaker after an 8-2 season and a head-to-head win over second-seeded Douglas. Fagen likes his team’s chance to advance if it gets past Galena, and its chances to send some singles and doubles players farther.
“The draw hurts us, but our goal is to get to Las Vegas for the state playoffs,” Fagen said.
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