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New girls tennis league obstacle to Warriors

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Fallbrook High School's girls tennis team entered Palomar League play with a 6-1 season record, but the Warriors were winless during the first round of league competition.

A 16-2 loss Sept. 26 at the Riviera Oaks Racquet Club, where Ramona High School home matches are played, left the Warriors with a 6-5 overall record along with their 0-4 league record.

"We're in a tougher league with a lot less experienced players," said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.

North County Conference leagues are now based on competitive balance. Last year, Ramona and Mission Hills shared the Valley League girls tennis championship while Fallbrook finished third. This year Ramona, Mission Hills, and Fallbrook are all in the Palomar League along with Poway and Rancho Buena Vista.

Fallbrook lost seven varsity players from the Warriors' 2022 team. Ramona, whose league record improved to 4-0 with the win over Fallbrook, returned nine varsity players from last year. Fallbrook's only 2023 seniors are Angie Palmerin and Jordan O'Farrell, who was on the junior varsity last year.

Palmerin and current juniors Olivia Searle and Kady Manion were the Warriors' only players who were on the 2022 varsity although current junior Natalie Guadalupe saw some varsity action when Fallbrook faced a team without a junior varsity squad.

"We're just young," Lenaway said.

O'Farrell, junior Jenny Cardenas, junior Gabby Carlos, Guadalupe, and sophomore Rose Rannells were on Fallbrook's junior varsity last year. The 2023 varsity also includes sophomore Berenice Yanez and freshmen Emily Carroll and Ashlyn Trujillo.

"The JV program is providing us with a bunch of players. That hasn't happened in a while," Lenaway said.

The Warriors likely wouldn't have won a Valley League championship, so Leanway relishes the tougher Palomar League competition. "It's good for the girls," he said.

Escondido, San Pasqual, and Valley Center remain in the Valley League. The 2023 Valley League also includes El Camino, Oceanside, and Vista. Lenaway was able to schedule matches against all six of those teams. "Our pre-season was full of matches of teams that were from our old league," Lenaway said.

El Camino's 11-7 home win Aug. 24 was the Warriors' only pre-league loss. Fallbrook's season began with a 17-1 home win Aug. 23 against Orange Glen. The Warriors concluded the month with an 11-7 victory Aug. 29 at Vista and a 12-6 home triumph Aug. 31 against Valley Center.

Fallbrook hosted Escondido on Sept. 5 and won all 18 sets. Searle won three 6-0 sets while Manion and Carroll won three singles sets apiece (Palmerin was given the day off). Carlos and Guadalupe prevailed in their three doubles sets. Cardenas won three doubles sets, partnering with Yanez for two wins and Trujillo for one victory. Yanez also won a doubles set with O'Farrell, who teamed with Rannells for her other two wins.

The Sept. 7 match at Fallbrook was an 11-7 triumph over San Pasqual. Palmerin was once again rested. Searle swept her singles sets. Manion won two sets while losing the other in a 7-4 tie breaking game after she and San Pasqual's Tyler Malz each won six games. Rannells and O'Farrell won two doubles sets, including one with a 7-4 tiebreaker. Carlos and Guadalupe also won two doubles sets.

The Warriors' final pre-league match Sept. 13 at Oceanside was a 13-5 win with the Ramirez sisters accounting for the Pirates' points. Fallbrook won all nine doubles sets with Cardenas and Carroll, Carlos and Guadalupe, and O'Farrell and Yanez each winning thrice.

League play for Fallbrook began with a pair of 13-5 losses Sept. 14 at home against Poway and Sept. 19 at Rancho Buena Vista. Palmerin obtained all three of Fallbrook's singles points in each match.

Mission Hills junior Sofia Echeverria lives in Fallbrook and took lessons at the Fallbrook Tennis Club. Echeverria defeated Palmerin in last year's Valley League singles final to win the league championship. Fallbrook hosted Mission Hills on Sept. 21, and the Grizzlies' 12-6 victory included Echeverria's 6-0 triumph against Palmerin, who won her other two sets by that score.

Palmerin reached last year's league final with a semifinal win over current Ramona senior Hannah Ferguson. The match went three sets with Palmerin winning a 12-10 tiebreaker. During league dual match competition last year, Palmerin and Ferguson split their sets; Ferguson was 27-2 in league play with Echeverria and Palmerin causing her only defeats. Palmerin and Ferguson also split their league sets as sophomores.

Ferguson evened her record against Palmerin at 3-3 with a 6-4 victory Sept. 26. "I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I think that we both played really strong," Ferguson said.

"I think we're pretty even," Palmerin said. "She's a great opponent."

Ramona won last year's Valley League doubles championship with current senior Isa Wilson and 2022 senior Sophia Scalise. Wilson now plays singles for Ramona, and she had a 2-1 lead over Palmerin before Palmerin overcame the deficit to win the 6-4 set. "I had to hold on and just fight back," Palmerin said.

Due to back pain, Palmerin defaulted her set against Emma Kaufman. Fallbrook's other point against Ramona occurred when Manion defeated one of the Bulldogs' substitutes.

"I knew our league season would have pretty good teams," Lenaway said.

"The kids are playing really hard," Lenaway said of the Warriors. "They're all having a real nice positive experience, and that's all we can ask for."


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