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Girls tennis 2012 season preview
Every so often in high school athletics, a group of student athletes will arrive on campus, learn the varsity ropes simultaneously and work tirelessly towards a mutual goal of one day hoisting a CIF-SS championship as a cohesive unit.
In the case of the Dana Hills girls tennis team, this particular collection of student-athletes will get a crack at doing it all over again.
"All these girls are comfortable with each other and have a ton of experience playing together," Dolphins coach Justin Green said. "They've been playing as a group for several years now, so they all get along and know each other pretty well.
"It's just special to be a part of it."
This season, the defending South Coast League and Division 1 champions welcome back the nucleus of a one-loss powerhouse fresh off its fifth consecutive CIF-SS team final appearance and third team title in school history.
The return of first-team All-County seniors Jessica Perez (Orange County's 2011 girls tennis player of the year), Alyssa Smith and Cassidy Spearman, along with junior Margo Pletcher, give the Dolphins, again, one of the most versatile and deep lineups in all of Southern California.
Much to the chagrin of opposing coaches.
"I think they're stronger this year," University coach John Kessler said of Dana Hills in an email.
"Dana Hills looks ridiculously tough to beat this year," Tesoro coach Tim DiLeo said in another.
With an unrivaled ability to fill a lineup with five capable No. 1 singles players every time it takes the court, the county's top-ranked team begins the season as the early favorites to repeat as Division 1 champions.
"On paper, our biggest strength is singles," Green said. "If we have a good singles lineup every match, and a doubles team with two girls that would play No. 1 singles for most schools, it'll be a tough matchup for anyone."
Last year, Dana Hills' 1-2 combination of Smith and Perez dropped just two singles sets between them, while the duo of Spearman and Pletcher (two more players who will play singles throughout the year) advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Individuals.
If that wasn't enough, highly regarded senior Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer, who sat out last season after transferring from Calabasas, will accompany the Dolphins' quartet of upperclassmen on its trek back to the finals.
"For a lot of these girls this will be their last year playing high school tennis, so they're taking it all very seriously," Green said. "Their goal is the same as it was last year, to get back to the finals, and they have the experience to get there again."