Top-ranked Gauchos cruise in opener

GREAT SERVICE (David Quesada)

Rodrigo Azurmendi

The Saddleback College women’s tennis team picked up where it left of at the end of last season with a rock-solid victory over Palomar College on Thursday. The Gauchos, the top-ranked team in the state, cruised to a 9-0 home victory.

The experience of sophomores Erina Hung, Andrea Warren and Summer Wallin proved too much for the short-handed Comets. All three scored straight-set victories with Hung dropping two games (6-0, 6-2), Warren four (6-3, 6-1) and Wallin one (6-0, 6-1).

Reigning state doubles champion and pre-season No.1, Hung fended off a desperate comeback attempt from her Palomar rival at the end of the second set.

“She changed her strategy,” Hung said. “At the end she started hitting a lot of lobs.”

The Gauchos freshmen also came out on top in their first college career matches. No.2 Rylee Stowell from Tesoro High scored a 6-0, 6-1 victory, while No.5 Katie Sexton from Laguna Beach High closed her match with a 6-2, 6-1 score. No. 6 Emma Hulse won by default.

“[The match] was really fun,” Stowell said. “It’s very different from high school because here we play best out of three sets. That takes a lot more of endurance and conditioning.”

The matter didn’t fare too different in doubles as No.1 Hung/Warren and No.2 Stowell/Wallin won 8-3 and 8-2, respectively. Palomar forfeited the third doubles rubber, completing the 9-0 score for the match.

“I loved playing with Erina [Hung],” Warren said. “I think we can make it all the way this season and repeat the title she won with Kathy [Dennis, 2007 state doubles champion]. That is the goal.”Coming off a very successful season, Gauchos coach Jay Amos has high expectations for his team, as well as praise for his players.

“Our team is as strong as it was last year,” Amos said. “Erina [Hung] is back and Andrea [Warren] has improved a lot. Summer [Wallin] is in great shape and moving much better. She’s going to be tough to beat. Also, we have a good freshman class.”

Amos pointed out a curious fact about how he found two of his new players and a recruiting problem in community colleges.

“We picked Sexton and Hulse out of P.E. class,” he said. “I was subbing on a Saturday class and I saw them and asked them to join the team. The problem is that most players think they’re not good enough to play college tennis.”

The players have high expectations for the season.

“I am pretty confident about the season,” Hung said. “I like the dynamic of our team. The goal is to win it all again but there’s a lot of new girls on other teams too.”

Stowell said that she wants to be seeded in the state tournament, while Wallin wants to qualify for the Ojai Tournament in Ojai Valley, Calif.

“This is my last year,” Wallin said. “I want to make the most of it.”

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