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Warriors to compete in CIF tennis playoffs

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Only three of Fallbrook High School’s girls tennis players this year were on the Warriors’ 2022 varsity other than when Fallbrook played a team without a junior varsity squad, only two 2023 Warriors including one who was on last year’s junior varsity are seniors, and Fallbrook was moved into a tougher league for 2023. Although the Warriors were 0-8 in Palomar League play, their 7-10 overall record includes a loss in the CIF playoffs.

“I don’t judge things on wins and losses. I judge on how we play,” Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway said. “I don’t have any problems with anything that happened this season.”

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

Because the Palomar League had five teams, one school had a bye during each round of league play. After Fallbrook’s first four league matches the Warriors traveled to San Pasqual High School for a Sept. 27 competition. The second match of the season between those two teams – the Sept. 7 match in Fallbrook had an 11-7 score in the Warriors’ favor – ended as a 14-4 Fallbrook triumph.

The Warriors won eight of nine singles sets with senior Angie Palmerin and junior Olivia Searle each winning three sets and junior Kady Manion winning twice while losing to the Golden Eagles’ No. 1 player. Palmerin, Searle and Manion are the three Warriors who were also on last year’s varsity. The doubles team of junior Jenny Cardenas and freshman Emily Carroll won all three of their sets.

League play for the Warriors resumed Tuesday, Oct. 3, with a 15-3 loss at Poway High School with Palmerin earning all three Fallbrook points. Rancho Buena Vista High School took a 13-5 victory at the Warriors’ expense Thursday, Oct. 5, in Fallbrook; Palmerin’s three singles points were complemented by two Fallbrook doubles wins.

Fallbrook’s Tuesday, Oct. 10, match at Mission Hills was a 12-6 Grizzlies triumph. Mission Hills freshman Victoria Echeverria, who lives in Fallbrook and took lessons at the Fallbrook Tennis Club, won all three of her singles sets including a 6-4 contest against Palmerin, who won her other two sets. Echeverria’s sister, junior Sofia Echeverria, played two doubles sets and won both.

League and regular-season play for both Fallbrook and Ramona concluded Thursday, Oct. 12, in Fallbrook. The Bulldogs prevailed in that 14-4 match, which for Fallbrook was a two-point improvement over the 16-2 loss Sept. 26, at the Riviera Oaks Racquet Club where Ramona home matches are played.

For the third year in a row Palmerin and current Ramona senior Hannah Ferguson split their league dual match sets; Ferguson had a 6-4 win in Ramona while Palmerin won the 6‑2 set Oct. 12. Back pain Sept. 26 caused Palmerin to default her set against junior Emma Kaufman; in the second round of league play Palmerin defeated Kaufman in a 7-5 set. In the third round of the Oct. 12 match Palmerin was rested and freshman Ashlyn Trujillo won a 6-4 set against a Ramona substitute. Cardenas and Carroll captured a 7-6 set; after each tandem won six games the Fallbrook duo won the 7-5 tie breaking game.

Tennis team playoff competition is based on the cumulative universal tennis rating data for each of a team's players. The teams with the eight highest UTR totals play in the Open Division playoffs, the next 16 teams are in Division I, the teams with the 25th to 40th UTR totals compete in the Division II postseason, and schools whose UTR ranked 41st through 56th along with any league champions who are given automatic playoff berths are Division III participants.

Vista High School, which won the Valley League with a 10-0 league record, had the 53rd-highest UTR and was seeded 13th in the Division III playoffs while Southwest High School of South San Diego was seeded 14th. El Camino High School had the 15th-highest UTR among Division III teams while Fallbrook’s UTR was 56th overall.

Although normally play-in matches are only for league champions whose UTR is not among the top 56 in the San Diego Section, Valley Center High School was second in the Valley League final standings with a 7-3 record and the Jaguars twice defeated El Camino in league play. Summit League champion Horizon Prep High School was not among the top 56 teams, so Fallbrook would have had a play-in match regardless of whether any exceptions were made to the format.

The tournament organizers decided to add Valley Center to the playoffs, give the Jaguars an Oct. 23 play-in match at Fallbrook, and give Horizon Prep a play-in home match against El Camino.

Valley Center and Fallbrook had previously played each other Aug. 31. The Warriors won that 12-6 match.

“I knew we had a better chance the second time we played Fallbrook,” Valley Center coach Seth Leichtfuss said.

The Jaguars did not have junior Samantha Picot for the Aug. 31 match. Picot and junior Rachel Gehman had played singles during the regular season, and Leichtfuss utilized those players as a doubles team in the play-in match against Fallbrook.

“They were able to win all three,” Leichtfuss said.

Valley Center juniors Ela Glazier and Lizzy Kishi also won all three of their doubles sets. Valley Center’s 10-8 victory also included two doubles wins by the No. 3 tandem of juniors Alexandra Garcia and Sandra Lai.

“That was the difference,” Leichtfuss said.

Fallbrook won seven of the nine singles sets with Palmerin obtaining three 6-0 victories. Valley Center junior Izabella Rodstrom won her other two sets although Searle and Manion both defeated the other two Jaguars singles opponents. Fallbrook’s doubles point was earned when juniors Gabby Carlos and Natalie Guadalupe defeated Garcia and Lai.

“They had a little more depth than we did that day,” Lenaway said.

Fallbrook’s other senior, Jordan O’Farrell, was on the junior varsity last year. O’Farrell concluded her dual match career teaming in doubles with sophomore Rose Rannells. They lost their three sets against Valley Center including a 6-4 contest with Glazier and Kishi.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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