Robin Draper and Pookie Gonzalez couldn't be more different on the tennis court.
Memorial High senior Draper gets to everything with a game centered on outlasting opponents, allowing them to make mistakes.
Bullard junior Gonzalez is a brute force, her rocket serves and laser shots overpowering and intimidating most opponents.
But for all their differences in style, it's virtually impossible to differentiate the success of The Bee's Co-Girls Tennis Players of the Year.
Robin Draper, Memorial High senior
She's qualified because: A Central Section individual doubles tournament runner-up along with partner Sydney Perotti and the County/Metro Athletic Conference co-MVP; went 19-1 in singles and 19-3 in doubles for the Panthers.
Pookie Gonzalez, Bullard High junior
She's qualified because: Reached semifinals of the Central Section individual singles tournament and was co-MVP of the County/Metro Athletic Conference, going 19-4 in singles and 5-0 in doubles while also starring for the Knights' volleyball team.
They shared County/Metro Athletic Conference MVP honors after splitting third-set tiebreakers in their only head-to-head matchups, with Draper coming from behind to win their first meeting 3-6, 6-3, 10-5 on Sept. 28 and Gonzalez returning the favor 1-6, 6-2, 11-9 on Oct. 14.
Draper enjoyed the edge in matches against their strongest common opponent, beating Central Section individual singles tournament runner-up Gracie Jacobs of Garces 6-3, 6-2 early in the season. Gonzalez, however, lost 6-3, 6-3 to Jacobs early in the year, and again 6-1, 6-0 while battling a wrist injury that would keep her from playing the third-place match at the section tournament.
But Gonzalez teamed with Clare Frye to down Draper and Sydney Perotti 7-5, 6-4 in their only doubles meeting on Sept. 28.
"They are the two best athletes playing tennis in the Valley right now," Memorial coach Andy Sorensen said. "When they played each other, I remember talking to Daren [Carter, Bullard's coach] and saying they looked like college players because of their size and the way they were hitting the ball, how athletic and powerful they are."
Oddly, neither plans to play tennis in college despite their obvious talent in the sport.
Draper's primary focus is basketball, where she averages 20.1 points per game as a 6-foot wing for the Panthers while drawing attention from college recruiters.
"People have told me if I focused on tennis I could play in college and be a pretty good player," Draper said. "But basketball has always been my dream."
Gonzalez' passion is volleyball, a sport she played concurrently with tennis in the fall. A setter, Gonzalez had 409 assists and 230 kills for the CMAC co-champions.
"When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a [tennis] pro at 16," said Gonzalez, the daughter of former 13-year tennis pro Francisco Gonzalez. "Then in the sixth grade, I started volleyball and I was like wow, this sport is cooler.' "
On the tennis court, their individual matchups helped define their seasons.
The early loss to Draper provided motivation for Gonzalez during a season that saw her go 19-4 in singles, 5-0 in doubles and reach the singles semifinals a season after teaming with Ashley Valdez to win the individual doubles title.
"My goal every season is to try and not lose," Gonzalez said. "I want to have a clean record. But a loss can be good, too, because you learn from it and it makes you worker harder."
Draper used her early conquest of Gonzalez as a springboard to a season where she went 19-1 in singles and 19-3 in doubles, winning the CMAC championship and reaching the individual final with partner Perotti.
"[Gonzalez is] a very strong player with really strong shots," Draper said. "She's intimidating at first glance. I just needed to get into a rhythm, then I wasn't intimidated anymore. ... It gave me a big boost of confidence in my singles play."
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