Photo By: Courtesy of Katie Kouvelas
While most people probably wouldn’t rate a weekend in Fresno as a memorable trip, members of the Los Altos High girls tennis team won’t soon forget their visit.
The Eagles traveled to the Central Valley for the season-opening California High School Tennis Classic and returned with the Division 3 championship that has proven to be a springboard to a successful September.
“I think winning our division at Fresno was essential to the confidence of both our team and our coach,” co-captain Katie Kouvelas said of a squad that’s now 9-3 overall. “In Fresno, we demonstrated what we are capable of, and it has inspired us to be more competitive during this season.”
Los Altos went 5-0 at the tournament – beating Clovis West in the final – and did so without top singles player Kacey Incerpi, who was at her sister’s wedding.
“That was really big,” coach Hung Nguyen said. “It was a team win at Fresno.”
A team featuring what the coach called “three freshmen sensations” – singles players Juliette Martin, Lili Kobayashi and Carina Burdick. The trio combined to win 13 of 15 matches in Fresno.
Martin, who moved from No. 2 to No. 1 singles for the tourney, “has a lot of power from both sides,” Nguyen said.
The coach added that Martin is on “the same level” as Incerpi, a senior who has “mobility, speed and is relentless.”
Kobayashi and Burdick play No. 3 and 4 singles, respectively.
The 5-foot Kobayashi may lack height, “but she has a lot of heart,” Nguyen said. “She puts every inch in her shots and is very aggressive.”
Burdick has the most shots of the four starting singles players, according to the coach.
“She’s undefeated and playing really well,” Nguyen said.
On the doubles side, the coach continues to tinker with the lineup but said he hopes to set it by this week. Nguyen noted that “three seniors hold the doubles together” – Amy Wang and co-captains Kouvelas and Sparsha Saxena.
Kouvelas likes what she’s seen from Los Altos so far this season.
“Our team has four incredible singles players, which definitely gives us an edge. Also, our large team this year has given us the opportunity to find the most compatible doubles partners possible,” she said. “I think because of these strengths we are more well-rounded as a whole.”
In Thursday’s 5-2 league win over visiting Milpitas, Kouvelas and Haley Jones won at No. 2 doubles, while Saxena and Avery Ikeda prevailed at the third spot. In Los Altos’ 6-1 rout of Gunn Sept. 25, Katie Limbach and Wang picked up a win at No. 2 doubles and Saxena and Ikeda triumphed at No. 3.
The Eagles, who last week improved to 2-3 in the challenging Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division, are scheduled to visit first-place Monta Vista 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re probably vying for third,” said Nguyen, whose team finished sixth in the league last year. “Our CCS (playoff) chances are looking bright, but we have to play one match at a time.”