Bullard High’s Chelsey Ruiz doesn’t shy from challenges.
Ruiz wasn’t afraid to compete in the primarily boys world of wrestling as an elementary school student.
She wasn’t intimidated by older girls while competing in the Central Section individual doubles tennis tournament during her first two years of high school, placing second as a freshman and third as a sophomore with partner Zoe Vargas.
And she didn’t let the presence of the defending champion and runner-up, and the third- and fourth-placers finishers, from last season keep her from chasing — and capturing — the section’s individual singles championship this year.
“I just wanted to do something new and different,” said Ruiz, The Bee’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year after a junior season in which she went 20-4 in singles and 8-1 in doubles. “I needed to play singles. I had practiced all summer as I hard as could for me to be able to have that goal.”
Ruiz, the tournament’s seventh seed, became the Knights’ first individual singles champion since 2000 with a 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 win over Memorial’s No. 10 Vivian Wen in the final. It capped a run through the tournament that saw her upset last year’s fourth-place finisher, Monache’s Electa Wright, in the first round, No. 2-seeded Sravya Gudipudi of Buchanan in the quarterfinals and Bakersfield Christian’s No. 6 Delaney Roche in the semifinals.
Ruiz ended up seeded so low because of losses to Clovis East’s Milah Ryland, the returning third-place finisher, and Gudipudi during the regular season, and a loss to Wen in the finals of the County/Metro Athletic Conference Tournament.
“Not many people saw this coming from me,” Ruiz said. “I was the underdog, but I wanted to make a comeback and show everyone that the past was the past and now was different.”
Ruiz has always sought challenges, starting with her decision to follow in the footsteps of her father, former Fresno State wrestler Jorge Ruiz, onto the wrestling mat. She finished third in the Fresno Unified District in her weight class as a sixth-grader. She’s also trained in the mixed martial arts discipline of Muay Thai and played a little volleyball, basketball and softball before focusing on tennis after her eighth-grade year.
Ruiz works year-round with private instructor Dave Borelli at Sierra Sport and Racquet Club, and has played extensively on the U.S. Tennis Association circuit to put herself in position to compete with and beat the section’s elite.
“From her training, I could tell she was ready to compete for Valley,” Bullard coach Daren Carter said. “She had an amazing year.”