Stalder pleased with progress

NEWPORT BEACH — The summer months mean plenty of junior tennis tournaments for Samantha Stalder.

They also mean plenty of encounters with friends on the other side of the net.

Stalder had one such encounter Friday afternoon at the 22nd annual The Tennis Club junior tournament, also known as the War by the Shore. She and partner Brooke Briseno of Mission Viejo fell to top-seeded Sarah Stadfeldt of Huntington Beach and Lea Lynn Yen of Fullerton, 7-5, 6-1, in the girls' 18s doubles final.

Stalder will be a junior at Newport Harbor High. She often hits with Edison High standout Stadfeldt, who also won the 18s singles title. They have played doubles in the past as well.

"We've hit a lot and we're good friends, and I know Lea Lynn as well," Stalder said. "It was a good match. They played well … We were down 3-0 in the first set and then we started playing a lot better, making less errors. We came back, but in the second set they just played really well. We might have missed a few more [shots], but they definitely turned it on."

Stalder and Briseno nearly forced a tiebreaker in that first set. But with Stalder serving on set point at 30-40, Stadfeldt made a couple of nice volleys to take the set. The second set was easier for the top seeds.

"They both have good volleys and they both have really hard serves," Stalder said. "Mostly their serves gave us some trouble."

Stalder knows matches with friends are par for the course; she beat Briseno in three sets in the second round of the 18s singles at the War by the Shore on her way to the quarterfinals. On Saturday afternoon, she plays Stadfeldt in an 18s singles semifinal match at the Chapman University Junior Open in Orange.

One place Stalder won't be for the second straight year is on the Sailors' high school team. Coach Kristen Case's team, which advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II championship match last year, undergoes fairly rigorous training and practice even in the summer months.

Stalder decided not to continue on the high school team after she played No. 1 singles as a freshman in 2009.

"It was really hard for me to decide to quit, because I love the girls on the team and I just loved playing on the team," Stalder said. "It was a really tough decision, and they did so well. It just didn't work out.

"It's a lot to commit to, and I'm really involved at the academy that I practice at now [Matchpoint in Santa Ana]. In the summer it's everyday practice [for high school], and some days are twice a day. It's a lot to commit to, especially when I want to do that and play at Matchpoint, and tournaments. And schoolwork on top of that."

Stalder's younger brother Reese is also an accomplished doubles player. He'll be a freshman at Newport Harbor this fall.

As for Samantha, she said she sees her tennis getting better. She's ranked No. 75 in the most recent Southern California rankings in the girls' 16s singles.

"I'm really happy," she said. "I'm just really enjoying tennis right now and trying to play a lot of tournaments."

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