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Sofia Echeverria wins Palomar League singles championship

Palmerin reaches semifinals, Carlos and Guadalupe reach backdraw

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Three of the four singles semi-finalists at the Palomar League individual tennis tournament Oct. 16-18 at Mission Hills High School are Fallbrook residents.

Sofia Echeverria, who is a junior at Mission Hills High School, won the singles championship. Fallbrook High School senior Angie Palmerin placed fourth in the singles division. Echeverria's sister, freshman Victoria Echeverria, defeated Palmerin in the third-place match.

Although no Fallbrook residents advanced to the doubles semifinals, Fallbrook High School juniors Gabby Carlos and Natalie Guadalupe reached the backdraw.

"I'm happy," said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.

This year's Palomar League consisted of Fallbrook, Mission Hills, Poway, Ramona, and Rancho Buena Vista. Each school was allowed four singles players and four doubles teams at the league tournament although Fallbrook and Rancho Buena Vista each only entered three singles players.

Palmerin, sophomore Berenice Yanez, and freshman Ashlyn Trujillo were Fallbrook's three singles players, and all three were given first-round byes. Carlos and Guadalupe, senior Jordan O'Farrell and sophomore Rose Rannells, juniors Kady Manion and Olivia Searle, and junior Jenny Cardenas and freshman Emily Carroll were the Warriors' four doubles tandems, and all four Fallbrook duos had byes in the first round.

Rancho Buena Vista senior Noelani Hall and junior Kaitlyn Ma eventually won the doubles championship, and in the round of 16 they defeated O'Farrell and Rannells in 6-0 and 6-1 sets. The Mission Hills duo of senior Aliza Mejia-Perez and sophomore Samantha Lin obtained a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Manion and Searle. Cardenas and Carroll lost a 6-0, 6-1 match to junior Carter Gibbens and sophomore Marcela Lozano of Mission Hills.

Carlos and Guadalupe faced Poway juniors Emily Hays and Grace Thornbrue in the round of 16. Carlos and Guadalupe won the 7-5 first set. Hays and Thornbrue had a 6-3 triumph in the second set. If the first two sets are split a tie breaking game to 10 points determines the match winner, and Carlos and Guadalupe won that 10-7 tie breaking game.

Sofia Echeverria defeated Ramona senior Hannah Ferguson in the singles championship match, and both of those players took 6-0, 6-0 victories over Fallbrook players in the round of 16. Echeverria defeated Trujillo and Ferguson eliminated Yanez. Palmerin won a 6-0, 6-0 match against Mission Hills freshman Nailah Maxwell. Victoria Echeverria defeated Poway freshman Cela Gonzales in 6-0 and 6-1 sets.

In the quarterfinals Palmerin defeated Ramona junior Emily Kaufman by a 6-2, 6-0 margin. Carlos and Guadalupe played Ramona juniors Eleanor Bleakley and Katherine Buonaugurio, who advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-1 win. Sofia Echeverria won two 6-0 sets against Ramona senior Isa Wilson.

Victoria Echeverria needed a tie breaking game to defeat Rancho Buena Vista senior Mia Petrovic. Echeverria was the winner of the 6-1 first set, and Petrovic countered with a 7-5 triumph. A tie breaking game must be won by at least two points, and Echeverria won the tiebreaker by a 13-11 score.

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. In the first round of the backdraw, Carlos and Guadalupe were paired against senior Clare Gonda and sophomore Alexey Gonda of Poway. The Gonda sisters won 6-3 and 6-0 sets.

"I think my number one doubles team played really well to get in that backdraw," Lenaway said.

Both singles semifinals required a one-game tiebreaking set. The Echeverria sisters played each other.

"It was just real challenging," Sofia Echeverria said. "Victoria did really well."

The younger sister took a 6-2 win in the first set. Sofia Echeverria countered with a 6-1 victory in the second set and an 11-9 triumph in the tiebreaker.

"It all came down to who's definitely more consistent, who has the best strategical manner for the game," Sofia Echeverria said.

"It was a really, really close game," Victoria Echeverria said. "It kept going back and forth."

During league dual match play Palmerin and Ferguson split their sets in all three of their final high school seasons. Fallbrook, Ramona, and Mission Hills were all in the Valley League last year, and in the 2022 league tournament Palmerin and Ferguson met in the semifinals. Ferguson won the 6‑3 first set. Palmerin responded with a 6-1 victory. Palmerin obtained a 12-10 triumph in the tie breaking game to advance to the final.

This year's semifinal between Ferguson and Palmerin also required a tie breaking game, but this time Ferguson was on the winning end. "We both predicted it would go to a tiebreaker," Palmerin said.

Palmerin was victorious in the 6-3 first set, which was also the score of the second set Ferguson won. The match began Oct. 17 but was postponed when darkness prevented the tiebreaker from being completed that day and thus ended Oct. 18 with Ferguson winning the 10-4 tiebreaker.

"It was really tough physically and emotionally. Physically I wasn't at my best, and emotionally I started losing it and I had to calm myself down and focus more," Palmerin said.

Their high school careers thus ended with Ferguson and Palmerin each winning four times against each other. "I always look forward to playing her, and I'm glad we were able to have that one last match," Ferguson said.

"Those matches can go either way," Lenaway said.

"Those two are just so evenly matched," said Ramona coach Troy Romero.

"It's fun playing her," Palmerin said.

Sofia Echeverria thus faced Ferguson in the final. "It was definitely really hard to get there because I had to play my sister in the semifinals," Echeverria said.

Echeverria, who defeated Palmerin in the 2022 Valley League championship match, took 6-3 and 6-4 sets from Ferguson in the 2023 Palomar League final.

"It was a really good match," Echeverria said.

"She's a great player," Ferguson said. "I played some of my best tennis ever in that match. It was a good match."

Echeverria was also named the 2023 Palomar League girls tennis player of the year. "Good solid player and going to work harder at being an even better player," said Mission Hills coach Dave LaVine.

The Echeverria sisters and Palmerin all took lessons from Mike Amador at the Fallbrook Tennis Club. "I think what got me this far was playing with my coach," Victoria Echeverria said of both Amador and LaVine.

If the first 12 games are split, a tie breaking game to seven points is played to determine the set winner. Echeverria and Palmerin each won six games in the first set before Echeverria prevailed in the 7-4 tiebreaker. Echeverria then obtained third place with a 6-2 win in the second set.

"It was nice seeing a familiar face, and she played really well," Echeverria said.

"I was actually proud of myself," Echeverria said of third place. "I was actually really surprised."

Palmerin, who settled for fourth place, was battling a back injury. "I didn't want Angie to hurt her back any more," Lenaway said.

Her injury affected Palmerin's backhand. "I just couldn't perform as well because I was in pain and I didn't want to push it any further, so I had to get through it as best as I could," she said.


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