Laguna Hills' Mikey Barthelmass swings through a shot during Monday's CIF-SS Individuals qualifying rounds at Corona del Mar High.

Strong start for Laguna Hills duo at CIF championships


NEWPORT BEACH -- Laguna Hills senior Mikey Barthelmass stands a modest 5-foot-2 1/2 inches. Her good friend and inseparable doubles partner, Alex Valenstein, is an unassuming 15 year-old sophomore.

Together -- when they're not busy completing each other sentences, laughing in unison and redirecting compliments -- they form one of the most dynamic, cohesive and dangerous doubles teams in Orange County.

On Monday afternoon, Barthelmass and Valenstein -- the heart and soul of Division 3 champion Laguna Hills -- advanced to the CIF-SS Individuals round of 32 with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Megan Bathen and Kaitlyn Cosenza of Newport Harbor at Corona del Mar High.

"Alex and I have good chemistry because we're real good friends off the court" said Barthelmass, an aspiring doctor who will continue her studies and tennis career at Division III Johns Hopkins next year. "We help each other calm our nerves, and make sure we take each set one point at a time.

"Our friendship helps us maintain good energy on the court."

The Sea View League's No. 1 doubles representative, Barthelmass and Valenstein -- stalwarts in the Hawks' singles lineup this season -- look to best last year's surprise run to the quarterfinals.

"For us personally, we didn't make CIF as a team last year so we used this tournament as sort of our CIF," Barthelmass said. "We made it all the way to the quarters and broke the old school record for farthest run in the playoffs. Our goal this year is to break our own record."

Valenstein -- who gained invaluable experience by playing in Chile earlier this season -- has another goal in mind.

"I've always liked being the underdog," she said. "People look at Laguna Hills and don't think about our tennis program. Personally, I want to show everyone our skill and prove them wrong.

"I want to represent Laguna Hills and help Mikey get a CIF title before she graduates."

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