Village News Reporter
Sofia Echeverria and Angie Palmerin both live in Fallbrook; they both took lessons from Mike Amador at the Fallbrook Tennis Club, and they are both currently high school tennis players although Echeverria is a Mission Hills High School sophomore and Palmerin is a Fallbrook High School junior.
Both reached the singles final of the Valley League girls tennis tournament Oct. 17‑19 at San Pasqual High School with Echeverria winning the league championship. “We know each other’s game,” Echeverria said. “It was a good experience,” Palmerin said.
All semifinalists qualified for the CIF tournament, and a backdraw with the quarterfinals losers determined the fifth-place singles and doubles players who would continue their season at the CIF competition. Fallbrook seniors Sam Hanlon and Erin Rowan placed fourth after defaulting both their semifinals match and the third-place match due to Rowan’s illness, so they joined Palmerin in qualifying for the CIF tournament.
Each school was allowed four singles players and four doubles tandems. Fallbrook entered two singles players and four doubles teams. Palmerin and senior Frida Isabella Hernandez were the Warriors’ two singles players.
During dual matches, sophomore Kady Manion was the Warriors’ #3 singles player while senior Cynthia Flor was a substitute in both singles and doubles. “We had them in doubles,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway. “They had never played together before.”
The first two singles rounds and the first doubles round took place Oct. 17. First-round byes were given to both Fallbrook singles players while Rowan and Hanlon had a first-round doubles bye.
Two of the three Fallbrook doubles teams with first-round matches were defeated in that round. The match for sophomores Lily Middleton and Olivia Searle was against a Ramona tandem who won by a 6-4, 7-5 score.
Middleton did not play high school tennis until this year. Searle played for the Warriors last year but did not have a match in the league tournament. “Both of them did a great technical job, and they got a lot better throughout the season,” Lenaway said.
Flor and Manion played a San Pasqual team who won the 6-1 first set. Flor and Manion countered with a 6-3 victory in the second set. If the first two sets are split a tie breaking game to 10 points is played. The tie breaking game must be won by at least two points, and the score was 12-10 when the San Pasqual duo scored the final point to advance to the round of 16.
Tracy Lopez is a senior and Grace Ahrend is a sophomore. They won their first-round doubles match with a pair of 6-4 sets.
Both Fallbrook singles players prevailed in their second-round matches. Hernandez captured two 6-0 sets against a Mission Hills player. Palmerin faced a Valley Center player and won 6-1 and 6-0 sets. Echeverria also received a first-round bye, and in the round of 16 she defeated a Ramona player in a 6-0, 6-0 match.
The doubles round of 16 and quarterfinal matches were played Oct. 18 as were the singles quarterfinal and semifinal contests and the first round of the singles backdraw. Lopez and Ahrend had a match against a San Pasqual team, whose victory over the Fallbrook players was in 6-4 and 6-1 sets.
“I don’t think anything happened during that league tournament which wasn’t unrealistically predictable,” Lenaway said of Lopez and Ahrend.
Hanlon and Rowan won their round of 16 doubles match against a Mission Hills team in three sets. Hanlon and Rowan won the 6-2 first set. Mission Hills were victorious in the 7-5 second set. Hanlon and Rowan prevailed in the 10-5 tiebreaking game.
That gave Hanlon and Rowan a quarterfinals match against a Ramona team. A 6-3, 6‑2 triumph advanced Hanlon and Rowan to the semifinal round. “We fought hard for the win,” Rowan said.
“They were a good team and I thought that we played really hard and did really good against them, and we had a good mindset through it all,” Hanlon said.
Hanlon and Rowan were better mentally than physically. “I was really sick,” Rowan said. “Then I was too sick to go further.”
Fallbrook High School’s homecoming was Oct. 14. “A bunch of kids got sick at homecoming, and Erin was one of them,” Lenaway said.
With the quarterfinals victory, Hanlon and Rowan had already qualified for the CIF tournament. “She was sick that day also,” Lenaway said of the round of 16 and quarterfinals matches. “I was really just proud of Erin for getting through them.”
“We couldn’t advance as far as we could have,” Rowan said. “We worked really hard,” Hanlon said. “It was a bummer we couldn’t proceed to the next round, but it is what it is.”
“They’ve been playing doubles together most of the year,” Lenaway said of Hanlon and Rowan. “Who knows what they could have done?”
Ramona junior Hannah Ferguson captured third place in singles, and her tournament included consecutive matches against Fallbrook players. She won a 6-0, 6-1 quarterfinals match against Hernandez to advance to the semifinal round and send Hernandez to the backdraw. In the first round of the backdraw, Hernandez faced Mission Hills senior Chelsea Johnson, who eliminated Hernandez in 6-1 and 6-2 sets.
“She finished that tournament about where she belongs,” Lenaway said. “I think she played up to her potential.”
The backdraw winner for the fifth and final CIF tournament berth, Valley Center senior Sabrina Price, lost a 6-0, 6-2 quarterfinals match against Echeverria. Johnson had been relegated to the backdraw with a 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinals loss to Palmerin.
Echeverria had a semifinal match against Mission Hills senior Amanyi Gibbs and won 6-4 and 6-2 sets. “She played her best,” Echeverria said. “She tried really hard.”
Palmerin and Ferguson played three sets in their semifinal. “It was very challenging because it went back and forth. We both tried our very best,” Palmerin said.
Ferguson prevailed in the 6-3 first set. Palmerin responded with a 6-1 victory. Palmerin obtained a 12-10 triumph in the tiebreaking game to advance to the final.
“It was very, very tough,” Palmerin said. “It was a long difficult mental match. It was a very solid game for both of us.”
In the tiebreaker Ferguson had a 9-8 advantage before Palmerin staved off match point. “It was so intense,” Lenaway said.
Ferguson defeated Gibbs in three sets to win the third-place match Oct. 19. The championship match between Echeverria and Palmerin began with a 6-1 Echeverria victory. Echeverria then secured the league championship with a 6-2 triumph.
“It was like back in the old day when we would go against each other,” Palmerin said. “She’s a strong player,” Echeverria said of Palmerin.
“I feel like I had an advantage over Angie,” Echeverria said. “I played her before and I beat her.”
Mission Hills and Ramona shared the Valley League team championship, splitting their dual matches against each other to give both teams 9-1 league records. Fallbrook was 6-4 for third in the team standings. When Mission Hills played Sept. 22 at Fallbrook, the match between Echeverria and Palmerin was a 6-3 Echeverria win. Echeverria won a 6-2 contest Oct. 12 at Mission Hills.
“The gal that beat Angie beat her twice,” Lenaway said. “It wasn’t a big surprise.”
Palmerin also noted that her victory over Ferguson the previous day contributed to her struggles against Echeverria. “I was exhausted from the match before,” Palmerin said. “My body couldn’t handle it.”
Palmerin noted that her goal this year was to advance past the semifinal. “That’s what I wanted to achieve, and I got that goal,” she said.
Lenaway noted that Palmerin placed above her seeding. “She was the #4 seed and got second place,” he said. “I was real proud of her.”
Echeverria has a sister, Victoria, who is currently in eighth grade and is expected to play in next year’s league tournament. “I’m excited because next year there’s going to be two of us,” Echeverria said.