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Juniors Hannah Villines, Sarah Smith help lead Eagles to 14-1 overall record

Braden Bell | The Feather Online

Hannah Villines, ’21, quit volleyball as a freshman and joined tennis. After a rough start, her coaches encouraged her to stick with the sport and improve.

As the girls tennis season nears the end of regular season play, the campus team boasts a 7-0 record in West Sierra League play. An aspect to this success stems from the play of two of the team’s top three players. Juniors Sarah Smith and Hannah Villines compete in the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.

Following a semifinals exit the previous year, the team aims to build off last year’s postseason success and push for the Valley Championships title.

While Smith and Villines never grew up playing tennis, they discovered the sport after losing interest in volleyball. The support in joining the team came from both their fathers. Smith originally participated in volleyball, but after growing bored with the sport, she decided to give tennis a try.

Villines also originally committed to volleyball; however, she joined the campus tennis team after gaining the belief she couldn’t compete on the volleyball team.

Now, as the league year winds down with the girls team crowned as league champions for the first time since 2008, postseason play prepares to ramp up. With the title of league champions already earned, the team sets their sights on the first Valley Championship win since 2005. This previous victory sent coach George Freeman’s championship streak to three consecutive wins from 2003-2005. This run came after three straight Valley title losses to Templeton from 2000-2002. Villines shares her belief that the team can attain the Valley Championships title if they maintain the right attitude.

“There’s nothing else to really look forward to and to keep an eye on except for playoffs,” Villines said. “I think that if we really put our minds to it, we could pull it off if we all want it. If there were to be a year it would be this year to get Valley’s.”

The following podcast features Sarah Smith, ’21, and Hannah Villines, ’21, expanding their hopes for this year’s girls tennis team.

Playing tennis for the past five years, Smith shares on the changes to this year’s team.

“With the loss of two seniors, we also had freshman come in,” Smith said. “We gained a freshman and a sophomore from last year and everybody just really wanted a spot this year. So each of us had someone that we were competing with for a spot. I think that’s really why we have been on such a winning streak because we all want to win.”

Junior Samantha Portale believes the team has the capability to put together a run toward the Valley title. She thinks a win in a Valley title game would show everyone the capabilities of this year’s girls tennis team.

“I think that we just have to put in a lot of hard work and determination in to win the Valley Championship,” Portale said. “I know that our team right now really wants it and they want to win to be able to say we won the Valley Championship; especially since for as long as I can remember tennis has not exactly been the sport that everybody wants to go see. So I think that it would be really awesome if we won to show everybody what we can do.”

Heading into the postseason, the campus team has continued its dominance through league play, hoping to finish the year undefeated. With one match remaining against Avenal, Oct. 22, the squad looks to gain home court advantage through the playoffs with a win.

The following tweet highlights the girl’s tennis team’s win against Dos Palos, Oct. 18.

As a sophomore on the team, Carlee Zamarripa, ’22, credits the dedication the team must have throughout the year. She also recognizes the bond between each other as the secret to their success.

“It has taken a lot of dedication and hard work from each one of us players to get us this far in the season,” Zamarripa said. “We all have worked together as a team really well. Our bond with each other has tremendously grown within this season and that’s why I think we are going to take home league champs for girls tennis.”

Braden Bell | The Feather Online

Sarah Smith, ’21, joined the tennis team her freshman year and worked her way up to her current position in the No. 2 spot.

Coaches Daniel “Bulldog” Jessing and Rob Foshee coach the tennis teams and led them back to the postseason. Jessing credits the relentless work ethic to the consistent success of both Smith and Villines. He also sees this season as a combination of years of work to put together a winning team.

“They just always work,” Jessing said. “They just take it seriously so they get better every single day in practice and it really shows. This year’s team is kind of the culmination of several years worth of work coming together. We started this a couple years ago and it was awesome just to win a match but they’ve all been working so hard for it. It’s not just a one year thing, they’ve worked hard for years and this is the year it really pays off.”

Villines credits her success to her coaches and the belief they put in her to compete at a higher level.

“They were definitely crucial in how we were able to make it this far,” Villines said. “I think the main thing about them has been how encouraging they were and how much they have believed in me. I remember freshman year, the first practice I went to, I was just awful. It was horrible and Bulldog would look at me and say, ‘Just wait, just keep working and you’ll get there. Just wait.’ He saw something in me that I guess I didn’t see in myself.”

Stay tuned to The Feather for updates during the playoffs and follow The Feather on Instagram and Twitter for up-to-date scores. For all the tennis game and scores from this season in one place, read Girls tennis box scores 2019.

For more sports articles, read Ezekiel Fuller displays work ethic through on campus, off campus activities and Volleyball seniors discuss final home game of high school. For a Feather opinion, read Editorial: Students enter second quarter, seek study techniques, tricks.

Kyle Clem can be reached via Twitter and via email.

The slideshow below includes images of Hannah Villines and Sarah Smith during home tennis matches.

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