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Sports

Lancers winning the right way in girls tennis

Boasting a legion of lefties doesn’t give the St. Francis High girls tennis team as much of an edge as one might expect.

The Lancers have five left-handed players – including all four starters in singles – but they don’t always play like lefties.

“It should be a big advantage,” St. Francis coach Lynn Horiye said, “but the lefties hit like righties – they don’t hit to the backhand.”

But that’s not all the Lancers are doing, well, right – they’re winning as well. St. Francis went 11-1 in the West Catholic Athletic League to tie Mitty for first place. The teams split their two league meetings, with the Monarchs winning the first match and the Lancers eking out a 4-3 victory last week on the road.

Last week’s match took two days to play. It began Oct. 23 but was called due to darkness with the score tied at 3 and St. Francis’s No. 4 singles player, Illina Yang, up one set. The sophomore returned to Mitty the next day, prevailing 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

“It was a very big win,” Horiye said.

St. Francis followed this with a 7-0 sweep of Valley Christian Thursday, ensuring the first-place tie with Mitty.

The Lancers (13-5 overall) and Monarchs (16-2) were scheduled to meet Monday (after the Town Crier’s press deadline) to determine who will earn the league’s top seed for the upcoming Central Coast Section team playoffs.

St. Francis had to play Monday’s match without top singles player Mary Closs, who was in Atlanta for a USTA tournament. Senior Closs recently signed a Letter of Intent with the University of Notre Dame. Horiye said she and Stephanie Schnitter – who played at Harvard University – are the best players he’s coached at St. Francis.

No. 2 player Paulina Bajet, a junior, “hits the ball well and her serves have gotten better,” the coach said. No. 3 player Catinca Negru, a senior, is “athletic,” Horiye said, “but she’s a perfectionist” who can be too hard on herself after a bad shot. No. 4 player Yang, who played doubles last year, “keeps getting better,” according to the coach.

Horiye described the doubles as being “in flux.” Last week’s lineup had Erica Gustafson and Gretchen Bahr playing the top spot, Andie Ham and Alex Miller at No. 2, and Jordan Barrett and Maile Jones at No. 3.

While the Lancers’ strength is in singles, the coach stressed the importance of doubles when it comes to winning a match.

“It always seems to come down to doubles,” Horiye said. “We’ve got to keep working on it.”

The coach is confident St. Francis can reach its goal of qualifying for the Northern California playoffs, which would require making the CCS final.

“If the girls play consistent tennis and believe in themselves, they can make it,” Horiye said.

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