With seven total players, including one who has never played before, Sedona Red Rock High School girls tennis coach Claudette Lalibrete has objectives outside of winning for the 2017 season.
Development for this Scorpions team that has three underclassmen and just one experienced senior is the key for the second-year coach.
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“I don’t try to have too much expectation,” Lalibrete said. “My goals are to have the team improve their tennis skills every day.”
Lalibrete has a group labeled the “Terrific Two,” a pair of freshmen: Leilani Olson and Aria Harness, who combined with sophomore Marissa Laso, make up the underclassmen constituency of the team.
The most experienced of the Scorpions is senior Fernanda Valencia, who last year was the No. 4 player on Lalibrete’s ladder of six players. Lalibrete looks for Valencia to be a leader, as does Valencia herself.
“I think I can really try to put the team where it wants to be,” Valencia said. “We can be a good team.”
In high school tennis, each player in the top six faces off with their respective counterpart from the opposing team.
“Honestly being No. 1 is a little intimidating because I’m going to go against a lot of people with more experience,” said Valencia, who qualified for the 2016 Arizona Interscholastic Association Singles State Championship, but was forced to retire from her first match due to food poisoning. “Even if they’re better I still want to take something away.”
To this point, Lalibrete still does not know who will be in the top six. She has time, though, as the team does not debut until 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Paradise Honors High School.
During the short time the team has been together, Lalibrete is excited at the fact that the team is learning quickly and uniting as a group.
“They’re very enthusiastic and cohesive as a team, that’s something I haven’t seen in a long time,” Lalibrete said. “I like how they’re gelling and getting along together, which is very key to having a good season.”
In terms of competition, the team has gone from Division III Section II to Division III Section VI, which Lalibrete said should make for more evenly-matched matches.
“Some have never played competitively and they will get used to the pressure by the end of the season,” Lalibrete said. “Pressure is a privilege, that’s what I want to teach them.”
Overall, Lalibrete is convinced that the team can develop a lot during one season.
“I look forward to seeing them as different players from the first match to the last,” Lalibrete said.