The Los Banos High tennis team is back to defend its Western Athletic Conference championship again after winning it the last three years.
But new players will hold LB's top two spots after the graduation of Alexis Barcellos (now a freshman on the Cal State-Stanislaus tennis team) and Christina Soares. The Tigers also graduated No. 4 player Tiffany Liu and doubles player Kelly Younce.
"We have big shoes to fill," new No. 1 player Nicole Marchese said. "We're about like halfway there."
"Yeah. Giant shoes," added No. 2 Jacquelin Arretche. "Alexis Barcellos and Christina Soares. They were like size 10s, and we're like size 5s."
Both Marchese and Arretche had it fairly easy as juniors, with Marchese playing No. 3 and Arretche at No. 5. But LB coach Lynn Barcellos hints that maybe the pair underestimate themselves.
"I think Nicole will do very well at No. 1. She just needs more confidence. I keep telling her, I know the only one she's going to have trouble with is Marifer (Ochoa, Ceres' No. 1 who was WAC individual runner-up the last two years)," Barcellos said. "It was a piece of cake for (Arretche). This will be good for her and give her some competition, because really, none of the girls I think they'll all be fine. Jacquelin played 5, but I mean, none of her matches were even close last year."
The key to both players' success is their determination.
"Nicole's very steady she gets a lot of balls back. And then she can hit it I'm trying to get her to put it away when she has the shot. She doesn't like to. She says she feels like she's going to overhit it, but that just comes with playing those girls," Barcellos said. "But she's very steady. Her athletic ability alone lets her get those balls back. She's a lot like Alexis that way. People got frustrated, because Alexis got all those balls back they didn't think would come back."
Arretche never had to worry too much about stamina at No. 5, but it's something she knows will come into play this year.
"When in doubt, stick it out. Just keep trying," she said. "Even when we have to play the tough teams. Don't give up."
The pair feels more pressure now that they're the leaders on the team other players are looking up to them.
"And, especially since it's your last year, it's a lot of pressure," Marchese said. "It's going to be different this year. A lot different. We're going to need to mold a little bit."
The rest of the lineup as of Monday, with challenge matches that could still jumble the order a little bit, starts with No. 3 Elena "Nena" Erreca, who played No. 6 singles last year. Nos. 4 through 6 Monique Arretche, Bianca Soares and Marelee Garcia. This year's doubles teams are No. 1 Amanda Marchese/Taylor Harris, No. 2 Stacia Teicheira/Kylie Cardoza and No. 3 Taylor Torongo. Several other players are waiting in the wings.
The Tigers scrimmaged against Atwater on Tuesday, and open non-league play Wednesday against Golden Valley before heading to the Fresno Tournament Friday and Saturday.
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org