Every season, some of the best girls’ tennis players in Southern California choose not to play for their high schools because of a lack of top-flight competition. At Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula, players don’t have to make that choice.
Peninsula (5-0) annually boasts one of the most challenging schedules in the area and this year is no exception.
The Panthers, Southern Section Division I finalists last season, scored a 12-6 victory over visiting North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake on Wednesday, then defeated Santa Ana Mater Dei, 16-2, on Thursday.
Peninsula has already defeated defending Division II champion Fullerton Troy, Division III runner-up Brentwood and Division IV champion Beverly Hills.
“I just like to see what’s out there,” co-Coach Tom Cox said. “It doesn’t help our girls at all to go out and beat somebody 18-0.”
The schedule doesn’t let up any time soon for the Panthers, who have won 11 Division I championships. Corona del Mar and Dana Point Dana Hills are on tap in the next two weeks, and the Panthers play Division II runner-up Santa Barbara on Oct. 7.
A showdown with defending Division I champion Calabasas, which ended a 45-match winning streak by Peninsula in last year’s final, takes place Oct. 19, and a matchup with Laguna Beach rounds out the nonleague schedule on Oct. 26.
“I don’t want any surprises in the playoffs,” Cox said. “Plus, I think it’s better to have the girls compete against other teams instead of practicing against each other too much. Sometimes you get too much internal competition that way and it hurts the team.”
A tough week got tougher for Mater Dei (2-3), which is playing this season without junior standout Michelle Murphy, the team’s former No. 1 player who decided not to compete this season. The 16-2 loss to Peninsula was the Monarchs’ second of three matches this week against top-flight opponents.
“It’s fun, but it’s harder,” said junior Leslie Bullock, who has played No. 1 singles and picked up one of her team’s two sets against Peninsula. “I feel like they depend on me for points, but it’s like that for everyone. I just do the best I can.”
The No. 2 doubles team of junior Bianca Barquin and freshman Kasey Kawabe won the Monarchs’ other set.
Mater Dei has victories over Los Alamitos and Irvine Beckman, but was saddled with a season-opening loss to Corona del Mar and was defeated Wednesday by Laguna Beach. The week rounds out with a nonleague match today at 2004 Division II runner-up Santa Barbara.
-- Lauren Peterson
Boys’ Water Polo
Nate Castillo, an all-section player as a freshman at Newport Harbor last season, did not return to the team this season because he is focusing on volleyball, assistant coach Bill Barnett said.
-- Dan Arritt
A free high school seminar featuring college representatives discussing athletic recruiting will take place Oct. 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Irvine Valley College, 5500 Irvine Center Dr.
For information: (949) 451-5398.