Prep Girls Tennis: Road gets tougher in Palomar League for Rancho Bernardo High, Poway; Del Norte favorite in Valley League
By Michael Bower
It’s hard to believe, but the strength of the mighty Palomar League — the toughest league in the county — increased during the offseason.
The addition of defending Valley League champion Canyon Crest Academy and the exit of Ramona has arguably made the Palomar League the toughest in the state.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the preseason favorite. That will once again be Torrey Pines, winners of 22 straight San Diego Section Division I championships.
Rancho Bernardo lost a few top-notch players, but should still be in the mix along with Westview. Poway hopes to improve on last year’s one win in the challenging league.
Over in the Valley League, Del Norte is favored to capture its first league title behind No. 1 singles player, Kylie Haviland. The senior battled through injuries last year, but is healthy and ready to go this season. She is coming off a year in which she reached the doubles section championship match.
Here is a closer look at the local teams:
Coach: Mike Parrinello, 10th year
Next match: Thursday vs. La Costa Canyon, 3:15 p.m.
Key players: Carissa Bernhardt, Fresh.; Carlin Tou, Jr.; Danny Sheikholeslami, Sr.; Dawon Lee, Sr.; Wakana Tanaka, Soph.; Anna Kaplan, Sr.
Key newcomers: Carissa Bernhardt, Fresh.; Erin Enriquez, Fresh.
Outlook: Most programs could not withstand the loss of a defending CIF San Diego Section Individuals champion (Jana McCord) and another top player in Emily Connelly — both deciding not to play high school tennis this season — but the Broncos still have plenty of firepower to compete with the top teams in the county.
Freshman Bernhardt is the clear-cut No. 1 singles player and returnee sophomore Tanaka will be playing at the No. 2 spot, giving the Broncos a solid one-two punch. Both are regular tournament players with plenty of experience in pressure-packed matches.
Seniors Sheikholeslami and Lee are the team captains. Both will be playing doubles as will standout junior Tou.
“We have a lot of experienced players and with the new players I think we are going to be OK,” coach Parrinello said. “Our league is loaded again and we will have to play great tennis every match.”
Torrey Pines, which won its 22nd straight section championship last year, will be the favorite once again.
Coach: Evi Yarnell-Valles, 34th year
Next match: Thursday at Del Norte, 3:15 p.m.
Key players: Savanah Goode, Soph.; Giulianna Crivello, Jr.; Kathryn Klahn, Sr.; Sarah Warcup, Sr.
Key newcomers: Veronika Kremennaya, Jr.
Outlook: The Titans struggled last year and it will not get any easier this year in the Palomar League. The No. 1 singles player for Poway has yet to be set in stone, but the top four figure to be Goode, Kremennaya, Klahn and Crivello.
Kremennaya is destined for singles play, but doubles teams will depend on the opponent of the Titans each week. Crivello and Goode played doubles for a few matches already this season and have looked great.
The matchups in the Palomar League, especially with defending Valley League champion Canyon Crest Academy entering the mix this season, will be tough.
“The league is really tough and the one team we best last year (Ramona) is no longer in our league,” coach Yarnell-Valles said. “So I don’t know where we fall in regards to the league. It is going to be tough.”
The Titans open league play at home on Sept. 20 against Mt. Carmel.
Coach: Cherise Meoli, second year
Next match: Thursday, vs. Poway, 3:15 p.m.
Key players: Kylie Haviland, Sr.; Ashley Han, Sr.; Nikita Rafie, Jr.; Natalie Taylor, Soph.
Key newcomers: Sadie Meeks, Fresh.
Outlook: The door is open for the Nighthawks to capture their first Valley League title in the program’s short history. The exit of defending champion Canyon Crest Academy to the Palomar League makes Del Norte the favorite.
No. 1 singles player Haviland figures to be tops in the league. The senior played with Yolanda Pham, who graduated, in the section doubles championships last year and finished runner-up. This year Haviland will likely enter the section singles championships.
Han and Taylor will be the top doubles team for the Nighthawks. Rafie gives Del Norte a solid No. 2 singles player behind Haviland.
“She has worked really hard,” coach Meoli said. “She is very athletic and consistent now. I think she is going to be a really good No. 2 for us.”
Freshman transfer Meeks, daughter of San Diego Chargers secondary coach Ron Meeks, could also make an impact for the Nighthawks.
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