Falcons sweep California Tennis Classic in Fresno, start strong in league

September 19, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju

Early results show the girls' tennis team to be one of the top in the state.

Huddled around the court sidelines in Fresno, the girls’ tennis team waited expectantly as No. 1 doubles senior Danielle Berkowitz-Sklar and freshman Varsha Horantur secured the Division 1 California Tennis Classic championship on Sept. 10.

Their 6-3, 6-4 victory against Oakridge High signalled a strong season start. Less than a week later, the girls breezed with a 6-1 win over Lynbrook in the first league match on Sept. 13, a 6-1 win over Monta Vista on Sept. 15 and 5-2 win over Cupertino on Sept. 19. With nearly half of the 13-player team new to varsity, including three singles tournament players, expectations were high for the California Tennis Classic and the league season as the team worked to find the right lineup.

“Even though we were very confident with our team, we stayed grounded going into the tournament, especially because we were overconfident last year at the Golden State Classic,” No. 2 doubles senior Daviana Berkowitz-Sklar said. “We approached every match with the same intensity, even if our team was winning.”

Though the girls played the Golden State Classic at Stanford the previous year, the team switched back to playing the California Tennis Classic, a tournament they placed third in two years ago, because of invitation and registration complications. In the two-day round-robin event, 98 teams from all California counties were divided into seven divisions. The Falcons were seeded No. 1 out of the eight Division 1 teams.

Of the four teams the girls faced during the California Tennis Classic, Los-Angeles based West Ranch High proved to be one of the toughest matchups, resulting in a narrow 4-3 win for the Falcons.

“We knew that going into the match, [West Ranch] had destroyed Oakridge 7-0 and that they had an especially strong doubles lineup, something most teams don’t have,” No. 2 singles freshman Monica Stratakos said. “But we knew that with our team we would be tough to beat.”

With the team up 3-2 and only No. 1 singles and doubles remaining, Danielle and Horantur won a close match against their previously undefeated opponents 3-6, 6-1, 12-10, while No. 1 singles senior Caitlin Ju lost 7-5, 7-5. Singles proved key against West Ranch, as Stratakos won 6-2, 6-1, No. 3 singles junior Stephanie Ren won 6-0, 6-1 and No. 4 singles freshman Annissa Mu won 6-0, 6-0.

The previous day, the girls beat Clovis West High 6-1 in the morning match and Menlo-Atherton 5-2 in the afternoon.

Head coach Florin Marica said success at the Fresno tournament proved not only an important bonding event for the team but an indicator of the team’s potential for strong De Anza League and post-season performances.

“With the great team chemistry and very strong lineup, we have a great chance to achieve our end goal to win it all,” Marica said.  

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