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The student website of Van Nuys High School
Van Nuys, California
The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Girls tennis team pushes on

WHACK IT WITH A RACKET Ellen Lalafaryan lunges for a ball during warmups in preparation for her match against Kennedy.

Through the ups and downs of the season, the girls tennis team has persevered. Amidst the challenges presented by a revamped roster and minimal school support, the athletes have maintained their synergy.

“We’ve lost a few and we’ve won a few, but no matter what we have a lot of good team spirit,” varsity player Docette Danialypour said. 

Though the Wolves finished their season with an even 6-5 record, going 5-3 in their league, they had a rough start to their season. They lost their first match on Aug. 24 against Providence 6-1. 

“I got into my head a little too much during our first game because we were losing,” varsity player Alyssa Paniza said. “We were playing Eagle Rock and they were really good, so I got a little sad at one point.”

Following a 7-0 blowout loss against Eagle Rock on Sept. 14 and a heartbreaking 4-3 loss against Kennedy shortly after, the team bounced back and in a game against Reseda, winning 6-1. Later in the season, the Wolves would win another game against Reseda, this time shutting them out on their own turf.

The season has featured unexpected roadblocks. Injuries have been a big challenge, causing players to miss time on the court. Games were also canceled because of issues with fielding a full team. 

The team has fewer players this season because many seniors graduated last year. A number of JV players were promoted to play for varsity, cutting down on the JV team’s roster size. Because the amount of players on the roster is tight, something as miniscule as one girl being injured could lead to the team not having enough players to compete.

“As a varsity member, it’s way different having to play in the games than just watching from the sidelines,” varsity player Isis Lopez said.

Some players choke because of the pressure of playing varsity, but adapting to the higher level of competition is something these girls are determined to handle. 

“I was very scared,” Paniza said. “I thought if I messed up it was gonna be horrible, and I put a lot of pressure onto myself. But now it’s not as big of a deal to me anymore. I don’t freak out as much.”

Veteran Captain Loc Handke is passionate for both the game and maintaining a good team environment. Outside of being a solid player herself and helping her fellow teammates improve their skills, she prioritizes her team’s chemistry and morale.

“Last year we had three captains, including myself, but going into this year I was the only captain for a pretty large girls team,” Handke said. “I felt a lot of pressure, but then I realized I had to be a good teammate. As long as my girls are having fun and playing fair, that’s all that really matters.”

Despite consisting of less experienced players, the team has performed well considering its circumstances. The girls themselves attribute their highlights of the season to their camaraderie and friendship with one another. 

“The sportsmanship and everyone being there for you and supporting you unconditionally, I think it’s really amazing as a team,” JV player Mia Kenigsberg said.

Coach Min Woo So has a soft spot for the team he has assembled. 

“I live and breathe tennis,” he said. “I watch a lot of tennis videos and I watch a lot of matches. When I wake up, all I think about is coming to morning practice. As a coach, I want to give everything I can to them.” 

Approaching the end of their season, some players ponder methods to popularize the sport in order to build a team for next year. Support for the tennis program is hard to come by, even if some students don’t know such a program exists.  

“I’ve been told people don’t even know our school has a tennis team,” Lopez says.

Sports such as football and volleyball have popular Instagram pages, and their games are announced through schoology posts and morning announcements. Tennis, on the other hand, struggles with outreach and resources.

“We’ve had a lot of trouble with funding before because we don’t have that many people who know about the team,” Handke said.

Even though tennis may not be as flashy as football, there are many moments to cheer for during matches.

Last year, the Wolves played to the tune of a 7-4 record, 7-1 in their league. The team earned the tenth seed in the playoffs because of their stellar record, winning against their first round opponent. 

They aim to make it back to the playoffs, and are determined to put girls tennis back on the map.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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About the Contributor
Rogers Levitt
Rogers Levitt, Staff
From playing Mozart’s sonatas on my upright Yamaha to watching a baseball soar into the bright day sky from my bat, I’ve always been driven to be the best. As a rookie journalist, I aspire to take my same dedication to become a noteworthy and dependable writer. With every story, I will report facts in an entertaining fashion with the hopes of drawing readers. When I am not honing my journalistic craft, I can be found at my piano, on the Van Nuys baseball field, or in my kitchen elevating my homemade ramen.
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