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Branstine looks to take Villa Park to next level
ORANGE - Constance Branstine has earned a day off.
Forget for a second that it’s pushing 115 degrees on the blue-top hard courts at Villa Park High, and just consider the whirlwind of a summer it has been for the senior.
Weekends – if not full weeks at a time – are spent on the road or in the air, traveling from one USTA tournament to the next. It was just in late July where Constance, alongside her younger sister Carson, helped Team SoCal capture the Girls 18 and under National Team Championships – locally for a change – in Claremont.
Much like her older sister, Cassidy (UC Irvine), had done a few years back, Constance capped her summer by earning a scholarship offer and committing to Arizona State. The commitment ended an arduous process that had the the five star-rated senior feeling out colleges from the Pacific Northwest to the deep South.
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“Having now committed to ASU, I’m more relaxed and have been playing really loose,” she explained. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
Her recent play supports that sentiment. Branstine’s performance over the summer has her climbing the national polls. A little green arrow pointing upwards on her tennis recruiting page indicates a best-ever USTA ranking – No. 37 nationally among seniors.
With college on the horizon and less than a handful of high school classes remaining on her plate, Branstine’s focus has shifted to the high school tennis season, where she hopes to establish Villa Park as one of the top up-and-coming programs around.
“We’ve played one match so far and it seems like it’s the same atmosphere as last year – fun but definitely business-oriented,” Spartans coach Chris Tibbetts said of his squad. “They know exactly what they got to do out there.”
With Branstine and former All-County performer Rachel Kim spearheading the lineup last season, the Spartans captured their first league title since 2004. In the process, Villa Park caught the attention and received major praise from every school it played during the regular season and playoffs.
The breakthrough campaign ended a tad earlier than they would’ve liked – an 11-7 loss to University in the Division 1 second round – but the Spartans played the perennial power closer than any team the Trojans faced all year, with the exception of the eventual CIF champion, Peninsula.
“We’re really excited as a team to hopefully redeem ourselves from last year,” Branstine said in reference to the Uni loss.
Branstine finished last season with a 30-1 clip and advanced to the CIF quarterfinals before dropping her a match to the two-time defending single champ, Ena Shibahara of Peninsula, in straight sets.
Of the three county players that advanced to the Individual quarters last December, Branstine is the only player back this fall. She is ranked higher than any other player in the county, and barring injury, she could top her 2014 run.
“I’m just really proud to represent my school and represent the Spartans,” she added. “Both my parents went to Villa Park and I’ve know Chris since I was like five. I’ve been looking forward to coming back and playing high school tennis again.”
That’s a rarity in a sport where many of the nation’s top players forgo their high school eligibility to focus on their national success.
Not Branstine, though. She’s not one to take any days off.
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