The Southern Athletic League welcomed a new tennis program last season as Denair High joined the fold. This year the SAL has another newcomer, Turlock Christian High, which should result in a higher level of competition on the court in the years to come.
In only the second year of existence, Denair’s tennis program is already making strides and improving on last season’s performance. The Coyotes ended the 2011 season with a fourth place finish in the SAL with only two wins. This season they are already 3-5 in league, with more than a handful of matches left on the schedule.
“The problem last year was that I didn’t have enough boys,” Denair’s head coach Paul Michaelis said. “This year I have 12 boys and 14 girls.”
Junior Zach Johnson and sophomore Eric Lema are Denair’s only returners on the boys side and have been accompanied by freshman Brian Dudley. Sophomores Alex Knapp and Katelynn Lawson have returned to lead Denair’s ladies on the court and have also been joined by freshman Jeni Calderon.
“We got the program and then there was an instant interest from the students,” Michaelis said.
Most of the enthusiasm has come from the younger students at Denair. As it stands now there are seven freshman Coyotes starting for Michaelis, which has the coach looking towards the future with excitement.
“For this season our goal was to be competitive against the team that was in the middle of the pack last year, which was Waterford. I know we’re still developing, but I’m very pleased with the team,” Michaelis said. “And once the freshman and sophomore become juniors and seniors we should be league contenders.”
So far Denair is 1-1 against Waterford High.
TC’s first year on the court has gone as anyone might expect. The Eagles are more than a few players short of a full lineup, and the other schools in the SAL have been winning in the team matchups.
The Eagles have experienced varying levels of individual success though; something first year head coach Vanesa Reibstein is happy to see.
“It’s been difficult because we don’t have enough students,” Reibstein said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the school though, and the kids I do have are hard workers and have a genuine interest in the sport.”
Reibstein, a San Diego native, played tennis for California State University, Stanislaus for the past three years and is in her senior year as a Warrior. Although she is young, she has had considerable experience leading kids on the court and has been coaching in one form or another since she was 15.
“I heard about the position from my coach at Stanislaus,” Reibstein said. “Once (TC) had a coach they put a team together.”
That team currently consists of eight players — two boys and six girls. So far, Eagles Savannah Swanson, Brenna Zisoraga, and Sierra Alvernez have proven to be hard workers and have stood out on the court during league competition. Early success, in any form, is good news for TC in its first year as the program is expected to grow in the coming years.
“This first year is about development, setting a foundation, and implementing traditions we want to follow for years to come,” Reibstein said.
TC will host powerhouse Delhi High on Thursday at Brenda’s Athletic Club in Turlock, the Eagles’ home courts.