The first round of Valley League girls’ tennis play concluded Sept. 21, and Fallbrook High School’s team had a 1-3 league record at that point.
“To win a match in the first round of league with the girls I’ve got and their experience is really not that bad,” Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway said.
The win was against Escondido at the Fallbrook Tennis Club. The Sept. 14 match ended with each team winning nine sets, and Fallbrook was given the victory on the tiebreaking criteria of games won.
The Warriors opened league competition Sept. 7 with a 16-2 home loss to San Pasqual, lost a 10-8 match Sept. 12 at Valley Center, and concluded the first round of league matches Sept. 21 with a 14-4 loss to Ramona at the Riviera Oaks Country Club in Ramona.
“Tennis is one of those sports that usually comes out the way it should,” Lenaway said. “It’s pretty indicative of where we stand.”
Because the Valley League has only five schools, each team has a bye during each round. Fallbrook’s Sept. 19 bye allowed the Warriors to host Mount Carmel in a Sept. 20 nonleague match. The Sundevils obtained a 16-2 victory at Fallbrook’s expense.
“They’re a good team,” Lenaway said of Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel ended the first round of Palomar League play with a 1-3 record, albeit with an overall record of 8-5.
“They play in such a tough league,” Lenaway said. “They’re always better than their record appears.”
Ramona won six of the nine singles sets and eight of the nine doubles contests.
“In our doubles, especially our No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, we’ve got kids who just learned to play tennis five or six weeks ago,” Lenaway said.
The match between Fallbrook and Ramona was also a showdown between Fallbrook junior Imogen Isaac, who won the Valley League individual singles championship last year, and Ramona freshman Julia Failla, who according to some Riviera Oaks sources is even more talented than her sister, Jessica, who won the 2013 CIF championship. Failla not only defeated Isaac in the Sept. 21 match, but she did so six games to none.
“Julia’s by far the best player in the league, no doubt about it,” Lenaway said. “She should be the best player in the league if you look at the kind of time she commits to it. You really can’t begrudge a kid who puts as much time into it as she does.”
Jessica Failla won the 2013 CIF individual championship; in the round of 16, she defeated Skyler Schaar, who was at the time a Fallbrook High School senior. That win made Failla the second Ramona player of either gender to win a CIF tennis championship. The other, 1985 boys champion Greg Failla, is the father of Jessica and Julia Failla and is the tennis pro at San Diego Country Estates, where Riviera Oaks is located.
Katrina Crawford, who won the 1984 CIF girls championship as a Valhalla High School student, is now Mrs. Greg Failla and is also an instructor at San Diego Country Estates. Ramona had also won one CIF doubles championship; Greg Failla’s brother was one of the partners in 1985.
Jessica Failla, who played at the University of Southern California for two seasons and has transferred to Pepperdine University, and former Fallbrook High School player Monica Robinson faced each other in the Women’s Open Singles final of this year’s United States Tennis Association National Open Hard Court Championships in San Diego. Failla won the 6-2 first set, although Robinson took 6-4 and 6-1 victories for the match and championship.
Lenaway was not disappointed with Isaac’s loss to Julia Failla.
“You can’t be upset,” he said.
The league individual tournament will take place Oct. 23-26 and many in the Valley League tennis community believe that Failla will win the league championship by defeating Isaac in the final. Any player who reaches the semifinal automatically receives a berth in the CIF individual tournament the following week, so the Sept. 21 set with Failla could be considered to have provided Isaac with competition at a level Isaac will see in the postseason.
During the second round of league play, Ramona will travel to the Fallbrook Tennis Club for an Oct. 10 match, so Isaac and Failla will likely play once more before the league tournament.
“I’m hoping that Imogen can put a little battle up against her,” Lenaway said. “She just might battle and do the best she can and live with the results.”