Santa Rosa Panthers end NBL tennis drought

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Breaking a drought of more than 20 years, Santa Rosa’s tennis team captured the North Bay League title Tuesday with a 6-1 victory over visiting Casa Grande.

Santa Rosa concluded league play with a 12-2 record to take the title outright over runner-up Cardinal Newman (10-4).

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After speaking with school administrators and long-time teachers, coach Dustin St. John was assured that it’s been at least two decades since Santa Rosa won an NBL title.

“People who’ve been around here 20 years or so couldn’t remember the last time this happened,” St. John said.

“We’ve got a core group of six seniors that have led us this season. More than anyone else, these girls deserve the credit.

“When they came out for the team as freshmen, only one or two had played before. They’ve improved every year.”

The six seniors are: Lindsay Bribiescas, Caroline Chu, Haley Lyons, Chloe Maybrun, Laurel Ockenden and Cat Padilla-Schoop.

All but Maybrun played in Tuesday’s match.

Santa Rosa won all but one singles position and then swept the three doubles matches. Satvika Madani got the Gauchos’ lone win as she defeated Lyons 6-0, 6-3, at No. 1.

Chu, who won No. 1 doubles alongside Taylor Bellinghausen (6-1, 4-6, 10-5 in the tiebreaker), said it was Lyons who persuaded the other five seniors to go out for the tennis team:

“We all went to Hidden Valley Elementary School and when we got to Santa Rosa High, she said she was going out for the team. It sounded like fun, so we did it.

“We definitely struggled our freshman and sophomore years. We were serious about getting better and we’ve worked at it.”

After finishing with losing records in 2011 and ’12, the Panthers gave a hint of what was to come as they finished 8-4 last year.

“The seniors have come a long way,” St. John said. “They’ve gone from playing mostly exhibition matches as underclassmen to winning league. It’s been an amazing experience to be part of it.”

Bribiescas, who admits she knew little about tennis before joining the team, is now hooked on the game.

“I was up late Monday watching videos of Maria Sharapova,” she said. “During my match, I was thinking about the things she does. I tried to act like her and it worked!”

Bribiescas won 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.