Fall sports preview: Warriors tennis

Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Experienced players lead the charge; new players reinvigorate the program

One year ago, the Del Norte High girls tennis program was in danger of discontinuation due to a lack of players. This season, Warriors coach Jane Rumiano has faced the exact opposite problem.

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 and 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.

"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.

Reach Robert Husseman at rhusseman@triplicate.com .

Tennis schedule

Sept. 7: at McKinleyville, 10 a.m.

Sept. 10: at Eureka, 4 p.m.

Sept. 14: at Arcata, 10 a.m.

Sept. 17: North Coast Prep at home, 4 p.m.

Sept. 21: at Fortuna, 10 a.m.

Sept. 24: Bye

Sept. 28: at St. Bernard's, 10 a.m.

Oct. 1: McKinleyville at home, 4 p.m.

Oct. 5: Eureka at home, 10 a.m.

Oct. 8: at Arcata, 4 p.m.

Oct. 12: NORTH COAST PREP AT HOME, 10 A.M.

Oct. 15: Fortuna at home, 4 p.m.

Oct. 19: Bye

Oct. 22: ST. BERNARD'S AT HOME, 4 P.M.

OCT. 26: HDN SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIPS AT DEL NORTE

NOV. 1: HDN DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS AT DEL NORTE

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