Placer girls tennis adapting to new start of seasonBy: Nick Pecoraro
Some people fear change. The Placer girls tennis team – a group that is experiencing a transitional period from multiple angles – is embracing it.
Countless championships are etched into the surrounding fences of the Placer tennis courts, including last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I coed title – won in the spring of 2018.
In 2018, the Sac-Joaquin Section split up the coed teams, with the girls playing in the fall and the boys in spring. Here lies adjustment No. 1 for Placer.
The second adjustment for the returning Lady Hillmen is learning from a new head coach, Randy Havens, who previously headed the Placer tennis team in the early 1990s.
Finally, only two seniors return from the 2018 spring team, Emily Osborne and Cayenne Gularte, who won the section championship last season as doubles partners. This year, they’ll be competing as singles.
“It’s definitely not normal,” said Gularte.
Just for good measure, Placer enters 2018 with a very young roster. Along with Osborne and Gularte, add three juniors and two sophomores, and the rest of this year’s squad is made up of freshmen.
“Having a young team is different,” said Osborne, “but I’m looking forward to the future with them.”
Possibly the biggest change is adjusting to much earlier preparation for the season. The fall conditions are much different than the springtime.
“We had to be out here before school started,” said Osborne. “It was new; a little challenging. We definitely have grown. We’re just so used to it going from cold-to-hot, and now it’s hot-to-cold, but it’s been pretty good. We’re ready.”
Havens said he likes what he’s seen so far from his young squad before it enters real competition. Early contenders for Placer’s rotation include juniors Cassandra Rhoades and Talia Heath, sophomores Hailey Hocking and Megan Clifton and freshmen Macy Maddox and Rosie Doupnik.
“We’re in the process of setting our ladder,” said Havens. “We’re pretty close to that and setting our doubles teams. That’s probably who they’ll play with for the rest of the year so they become accustomed to one another, their strengths and weaknesses, et cetera. They put in a lot of time. We’re excited to get started and see where we are with this new lineup.”
The lineup Havens refers to is the new Foothill Valley League, featuring new opponents such as Ponderosa, Nevada Union, Oakmont, Rio Linda and Lincoln. Each team, Havens said, offers its own challenges.
“We’re looking for winning with depth,” Havens said. “Every point counts.”
Regardless of the new competition, the goal remains the same for the Hillmen: getting back to championship status.
“It’s a longstanding tradition,” said Havens. “That kind of tradition that we have – you see a board like (the list of champions on the Placer tennis court) – most schools don’t have that.”
Despite a different coach, different players, different competition, different start to the season and different roles, the Hillmen know it’s still the same game.
“It’s still tennis,” said Gularte, “and we’re still having fun.”