The Newport Harbor High girls’ tennis team returns just four starters from last year, none of them in singles and none of them seniors.
A quick look at the Sailors would show that they are inexperienced. But a quick look at their first two matches show that they may have the intangibles to have a successful season.
For the second straight day, Newport Harbor won a close nonleague match. The Sailors bested Troy 10-8 at Newport Harbor High on Wednesday.
Newport Harbor, which beat Capistrano Valley by the same score on Tuesday, improved to 2-0.
Doubles has been a strong point early in the season. Newport Harbor won eight of nine doubles sets against Troy (0-1). Juniors Amra Barton and Avery Wooden swept at No. 1 doubles, and juniors Riley DeCinces and Sterling Solomon swept at No. 2 doubles. Barton, Wooden, DeCinces and Solomon are the four returning starters for the Sailors, who also got a pair of victories by the No. 3 team of senior Kat Smith and sophomore Trish Harano.
“We want tough matches that challenge us, but it’s also good to win,” said Smith, who is in her second year as a team captain. “It’s been a really good first week. A big thing we’ve talked about is serving your role, and definitely everyone is doing that really well. Encouragement is a huge thing, especially since we have a small team [with 10 players]. We don’t have the bench-warmers as much to cheer us on, so on the court, it’s a big priority for us to cheer for each other.”
The sister tandem of sophomore Jenna Sabile and senior Julianna Sabile each easily swept in singles for Troy, but Warriors coach Ali Arredondo said her normal No. 3 singles player, freshman Liz Pinson, was out sick. Newport Harbor took advantage against her replacement, Shreeya Jayabharathi, winning twice.
Sailors No. 1 singles player Lane McArdell beat Jayabharathi 6-3 in the second round, and No. 2 singles player Kristin Lindh won by the same score in the third round.
Lindh’s victory gave Newport Harbor its ninth set win, and Barton and Wooden then clinched the match with a 6-3 win over Troy’s Hannah Kim and Shay Lee Gill.
Two starters from last year are injured and expected to miss the season, Case said, Lauren Lipkowski with a sprained right wrist and Lauren Richter with tennis elbow. But the Sailors did get McArdell back.
McArdell, a junior lefty, returns to action after Case said she missed most of last year with a stress fracture in her back. McArdell still came to the matches and supported her teammates last season, but now it’s her time to shine.
“She was a very valued team member last year, even though she wasn’t on the court,” Case said. “She was very patient, which is really hard to do as an athlete.”
Senior Carolyn Altshuler, a doubles substitute for the Sailors last year, finds herself at No. 3 singles this week for the Sailors. Case said another member of the Sailors’ singles lineup, Talia Baia, is out of town this week with school not starting until Tuesday.
Altshuler went winless against Troy, but battled through each of the three sets.
“I’m really proud of her, to see her versatility, because she’s really played mostly doubles in her high school career,” Case said. “This week, she’s been called upon to play singles, and she’s a coach’s dream. She’s a great representation of our program.”
Newport Harbor returns to action Thursday, with a match at Aliso Niguel. The Sailors are fired up to try for a 3-0 record in the first week of the season.
“Everyone’s so good at encouraging,” said Barton, the Sailors’ other team captain. “I think that’s what’s getting us through in the moments that get tougher and more challenging.”