Experienced players lead the charge; new players reinvigorate the program
Del Norte has 18 rostered players as its first match — Saturday, Sept. 7, at McKinleyville High — draws near, well above the necessary minimum of six players.
“I’m really excited about having so many girls,” said Rumiano, the Warriors’ longtime coach who rejoined the program in the middle of the 2012 season. “They’re all as nice as can be. They’re very coachable. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Senior Panhia Yang and juniors Jordan Babich, Debbie Yang, Breahna Molina and Alexis Wright return from the 2010 squad, which went 5-5 in Humboldt-Del Norte League match play.
“All the girls that played last year have just this fabulous work ethic,” Rumiano said.
Babich, the team’s most experienced player, is Del Norte’s top singles player and will make up half its top doubles team. She joined with the graduated Taylor Cleland, her cousin, in winning the HDN doubles championship, and won a match at the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section playoffs.
Babich spent part of her summer working with a tennis pro at the Rogue Valley Swim & Tennis Club in Medford, Ore., to expand her game.
“We went back to the basics of footwork,” Babich said. “We worked on my serve a lot — it (still) needs a little bit of work.”
In practice, Babich often plays against members of the community recruited by Rumiano, testing her in ways her less experienced teammates cannot.
“Jane pushes me,” Babich said. “If I do a drill and mess up, she’ll make me do it again. She has me help other girls and be a leader for the team.”
Rumiano lauded Debbie Yang as the most-improved player on the Warriors over the summer; Yang will begin the season as the No. 2 singles player. Panhia Yang and Wright are in competition for the next two singles spots, with Yang holding an edge.
Junior Debbie Yang was lauded by head coach Jane Rumiano as one of the team’s most improved players. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
“This is my last year, so there are certain teams that I’d like to beat (in matches),” Yang said. “To beat those teams, we have to work hard now on the court.”
Yang, also a point guard on the Del Norte girls basketball team, worked with Rumiano and her sister over the summer on refining her game in preparation for the season.
“I’ve worked on all my serves,” Yang said. “I think I’ve gotten stronger. I’m taking more control of myself and not letting (my opponents) put me down.”
Senior Marine Henry, an exchange student from Belgium spending the year in Crescent City, is currently the Warriors’ No. 5 player, according to Rumiano. Freshman Raili Makela is holding onto the No. 6 spot.
Other newcomers to the team include seniors Elleana Gehr and Dakota Griffin; juniors Salina Xiong and Kia Lee; sophomores Olivia Jeffcoat, Ridhee Patel, Emily Thor, Anissa Vang and Ashlee Hakchaleun; and freshmen Samantha Bollinger and Kavi Memmer.
“I watch them play. They have some speed,” Panhia Yang said. “They’re still young; they’ve got a lot of time in high school. If they work now, they could be good by their senior years.”
Rumiano hopes to schedule as many exhibition matches as
possible with HDN schools to break in her new players during the season and get them
playing girls other than their teammates.
“They’re beginners, but they’re good athletes,” Rumiano said. “One thing strikes me — they’re so coachable.”
Wins and losses, ecstasy and heartbreak, will come and go. Skill development has a habit of sticking around.