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Benter goes on winning bender

ATWATER -- Saskia Benter found herself in unfamiliar territory. After not dropping more than three games in a single set during the entire Central California Conference season and tournament, the Buhach Colony exchange student opened the Sac-Joaquin Section tournament with an 0-6 loss.

"I just thought, 'I can't say goodbye like this,' " Benter said. "I wanted to keep playing and fortunately I was able to come back."

Utilizing the powerful forehand and aggressive style which wreaked havoc on the CCC, Benter fought her way back into the match. She eventually won 0-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Benter was eliminated from the tournament in the next round, finishing the season with a remarkable 20-1 record.

Couple that with her CCC title and dominance in conference play and Benter is the hands-down choice for Sun-Star Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

"Coaching as long as I have, it was truly a pleasure to coach a player who already had what you try to instill in other players," Buhach Colony coach John McKim said. "The biggest problem I had all year was finding players who could compete with her.

"But despite being so much ahead of everyone else, she was still happy to teach her teammates what she could."

The most impressive thing about Benter is tennis isn't her first love.

It's not even her best sport.

The German finds herself most at home playing field hockey.

"I miss it," Benter admitted. "I love field hockey.

"I like tennis, too. I've played since I was 4. This year was a lot of fun."

Not every aspect of Benter's trip abroad has been fun, though.

Midway through the fall season, Benter learned she was going to need to switch host families.

"I was a little concerned about that," McKim said. "Here she is far away from home and her family is telling her she can't stay with them anymore.

"She was pretty broken up about it when we told her."

Despite the turmoil at home, Benter never let her focus falter on the court.

Buhach's No.1 singles player breezed through the CCC regular season with a perfect record.

"At first I was surprised when I had to change host families, but now I'm really happy," Benter said. "I'm living with my teammate Kimberly Jones and it's been great."

Happy and settled, Benter set her sights on the CCC crown.

She cruised through the semifinals 6-0, 6-1 and squared off with Turlock's Elise Cusenza in the final.

Benter struggled with her forehand accuracy against Cusenza, but even an off-day for Benter is still pretty good.

She won the match 6-3, 6-3 to secure the CCC singles title.

It was the first time all season Benter had given up three games in a single set.

"I had an advantage in league, because I've played all my life and most of them have only played since they were freshman," Benter acknowledged. "The sections was very different. I hadn't faced competition like that."

Benter tried to match the level of competition, but her first-round match proved draining.

"My first match was long and I was kind of tired," Benter said. "And you know how when you get too much sun, you get kind of sick? I was like that.

"It was OK, though. The season gave me many good memories to take home with me."