Leadership change is the story line for the top girls’ tennis teams in the Moore League this season as both Long Beach Poly and Wilson have new coaches for the first time in a long time.
Longtime Long Beach Poly coach Ricardo Montecinos stepped down this year, although he will remain as coach of the boys’ program. The Jackrabbits are the five-time defending Moore League champions, and are hoping to win the crown again this year, which would make them the first team in league history to six-peat.
Ava Deguzman was in line to be the top tennis player in the city this year, but has withdrawn from school and will be home-schooled while continuing to pursue the sport.
While Montecinos and Deguzman won’t be on the court for Poly, another face who’s familiar to local tennis fans will be. Longtime El Dorado Tennis Center figurehead Douglas Schlueter will be taking the reigns, while former Poly standout Mey Phy is aboard as an assistant for the Jackrabbits.
The Bruins also reached the semifinal round in Division 3, but lost a talented group of seniors and longtime coach Kerri McBride in the offseason. Lori Mendoza has taken over the program, and said her team is motivated by the move up to Division 2.
“The girls are so pumped,” Mendoza said. “They want to do it again, or better, this year.”
The Bruins will rely on team captains Natalie Quinn and Mariana Markouizos, but they have a very deep and versatile roster. Mendoza said she expects returners Gisella Arria, Olivia Cassar, Ariella Markouizos, Olivia Mancillas and Madelyn Tadd to play big roles all year long.
Wilson is also getting a good player back in Diane Bou-Assi, who took a season off. Aiyanna Smith and Isabella Wooden could also contribute in their first year on the varsity squad.
Mendoza said she already knows the matches with Poly on Oct. 1 and Oct. 22 are the most important of the regular season, but her priorities are about the individual players.
“A successful season to me is every member of the team working to their full potential,” Mendoza said. “Win or lose, we will walk away knowing we’ve given it our all.”
The Rams feel ready to right the ship after falling short of their own expectations last year.
“Last season we were missing a couple of pieces of the puzzle, but we think we have found those pieces this year,” Millikan coach Tori Frapwell said. “We have high hopes for this season, and we seem to have a better work ethic going.”
Senior captain Samantha McCullagh will be a key doubles player, and sophomore Maya Alvarez will be the No. 1 singles player. Sophomore Jenny Robbins also will be an important singles player, and Frapwell said freshman Keylie Mazzeo is making waves as well.
The Lancers are in a rebuilding year under coach Brian Vikram. Newcomers such as Vienesse Datu and Hannah Delgadillo will be key to their success against the top half of the league.
Sophie Vikram is team captain and she will be at the top of the singles lineup with returners Victoria Datu, Madelyn Patrick and Mckensie Patrick.
The Jaguars gained a lot of valuable experience under coach Christian Baldemor last season, and they’re hoping to put it to good use this year.
“Now that they have seen and experienced the competition, their competition level has increased,” Baldemor said. “They truly feel that there is unfinished business that needs to be accomplished.”
Sophomores Sara da Silva, Dalia Reyes, Letty Patino, and Vanessa Patino will lead the way after joining the team last year. Junior Ashanti de Lacy will be the number one singles player and co-captain with Vanessa Patino. Freshmen Joy Teter and sophomore Hannah Flores are the top newcomers.
Baldemor also said he will judge his team on their competitiveness against the best teams in the league.
“As I tell the girls, to be a good player you must learn from your mistakes while trying to beat the best players,” Baldemor said.
That’s what the teams from Jordan, Compton and CAMS also will be trying to do this season, but they won’t get much time to gain momentum. CAMS plays Wilson in the league opener on Sept. 17 and Compton visits Poly while Jordan hosts Wilson on the second day of league matches.