Despite not having begun its official Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Section VI schedule, the Sedona Red Rock High School’s boys and girls tennis teams competed against one of their section rivals in Anthem Preparatory Academy on Tuesday, March 28.
The girls [2-4] won their match 5-4, but under unusual circumstances. The visiting Eagles had just three players, giving the Scorpions five default victories. Of the four matches that were played, each of the top three Red Rock singles players and its doubles team lost.
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“I’m working on the motto with them of ‘Refuse to lose,’” girls head coach Claudette Lalibrete said. “They don’t have to win, but they have to refuse in their hearts and their heads and not give in.”
Freshmen Aria Harness and Leilani Olson formed the lone doubles pair, and at one point led the eight-point pro set 6-2. They eventually fell 9-7, but Lalibrete was not disappointed with the performance.
“That is getting them experience, they did very well for them playing their No. 1 team,” Lalibrete said. “Then they had trouble focusing, which is a normal mental block for kids just starting to play.”
Many of the players are new to the game, but naturally have improved, mostly in their technique and strokes.
“Their shot-making skills are improving,” Lalibrete said. “They are constructing points. They don’t get the ball and try to get a winner.”
However, with inexperience come challenges more complex than foot movement or serve technique.
“They still have got to work on their mental toughness, getting them to believe when it gets tough,” Lalibrete said.
Senior Fernanda Valencia, the No. 1 Scorpion, lost in straight sets 6-1, 7-5 while No. 2 junior Sarah Lynch lost 6-2, 6-2.
On the boys side, Anthem Prep was, according to head coach Phil Kovac, one of the two toughest opponents his team will face all season aside from Northland Preparatory Academy.
“We had a good chance against Anthem Prep, they’re just a lot deeper than us,” Kovac said. “We’ll have a good chance to beat everyone else.”
Sophomore Kai Zimmerman remains undefeated at the No. 2 position this season, winning in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5. But from this point forward, Zimmerman and No. 1 junior Max Knaus, who lost 6-2, 6-2, will switch spots. Not because of a lack of success on Knaus’ part, but rather because Zimmerman wants to represent Red Rock at the AIA state tournament in the singles competition.
In order to give Zimmerman a chance at earning a seed for the tournament, he will be put to the test as the No. 1. The AIA does not allow a player to compete in both singles and doubles at the state tournament, and Zimmerman opted for singles.
Because of this, Knaus will begin working with another teammate in the doubles matches for the rest of the regular season.
However Kovac’s overall goal is to qualify for the tournament as a team, which requires it to be in the top 16 of the Division III. Currently it is No. 17 with a 3-2 record.
No. 3 Leo Gonzalez lost 6-2, 7-6 as did No. 4 Javier Diaz 6-1, 6-1 and No. 5 Trevor Stovall 6-0, 6-3. Since the match was in hand for the Eagles, No. 6 Frankie Alves played an eight-game pro set, winning 8-0.
Zimmerman and Knaus lost their No. 1 doubles match 8-6 while the No. 2 duo of Gonzalez and Diaz won 8-3. The No. 3 pairing of Stovall and Alves lost 8-3.
Both the boys and girls hosted Scottsdale Christian Academy on Thursday, March 30, but results were unavailable at press time. They open Division III Section VI play at 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, at Northland Prep.