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Clovis West tennis taking shot at top finish

Junior Janie Ellis, the defending Central Section singles champion, warms up during practice at Clovis West High School.
Junior Janie Ellis, the defending Central Section singles champion, warms up during practice at Clovis West High School.

A champion player and an experienced team are revving up hopes of a stellar season for Clovis West High School’s girls tennis squad.

Junior Janie Ellis, who won the Central Section singles title in 2015, anchors the team.

Coach Neil Castro is encouraged.

“We think we can be pretty successful, but there are a lot of good teams in the Valley,” he said. “It’ll be tough, but I think we’re one of the better teams.”

With the season underway, Castro sees Buchanan and Clovis North high schools as major competition in the tough Tri-River Athletic Conference.

Buchanan is the defending TRAC and Central Section champion. In the last 10 years, the Bears have won the league title seven times and the Central Section title four times, finishing as the section runner-up two other times.

“They’re obviously the team to beat until someone beats them,” Castro said. “If you’re one of the better teams in the TRAC, you’re one of the better teams in the Valley. That’s our first goal — to do well in the TRAC — and then see where we end up.”

Here are edited excerpts from The Independent’s interview with Castro, Ellis and two veteran Clovis West players, seniors Julia August and Katelyn Pevandi.

What does it mean for Clovis West to have the defending section singles champion?

Castro: “A lot of the girls feel more comfortable when they’re playing because they feel we’re going to be up 1-0 with Janie. But like I tell the girls, every match gets the same amount of points. They’re all equally important. It’s not just Janie. We’re a team. Janie is a good leader and a good teammate, and that’s what you want with your No. 1. She’s very unselfish and she doesn’t like the notoriety she gets. She’s more about the team. That’s what we really like about her.”

August: “It makes you up your game. When you play with her at practice, you have to be at your best to be able to rally with her. I think it pushes the team as a whole and allows us to do better.”

Pevandi: “It definitely boosts our confidence. She’s such a gem. She’s fun to play. I’m sure she takes it easy on us during practice. Nobody’s ever said anything bad about Janie. If you don’t like Janie, I think there’s something wrong with you.”

To Ellis: What’s the psychology of defending your singles title?

“There is a lot more pressure, but I’m just going to do my best and see what happens. I’m actually trying not to think about it too much and play my game because that’s all you can really do.”

To Ellis: How do you provide leadership for the team?

“I try to lead by example because I’m not a vocal leader. I just try to be focused on the court and try my hardest at practices and at matches. I try to keep everyone positive.”

What’s your outlook for the season?

Ellis: “I would definitely say trying to defend my championship title and to get the Valley team championship. We’re just going to do our best.”

August: “We haven’t lost a lot of players this year, and we have a strong team with a lot of depth.”

What’s the team chemistry like?

Pevandi: “It’s super good. JV and varsity — we all get along. There’s no difference between any of us. There’s no tension between any of the players.”

What is it like to play in the TRAC?

August: “It makes you have more expectations for yourself. I think it ups everyone’s level of tennis.”

Pevandi: “It’s competitive. For all the girls, once we’re on court, we shift gears and we’re focused. It’s good.”

Varsity players:

Sydney Aldrich, senior

Matea Ancheta, senior

Julia August, senior

Nicole Beach, junior

Brianne Bustamante, junior

Janie Ellis, junior

Lauren Hudec, junior

Teegan Ilic, senior

Ecy King, sophomore

Sarah Mommer, senior

Lynn Nguyen, senior

Emma O’Farrell, sophomore

Katelyn Pevandi, senior

Bella Salgado, senior

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