Warriors win Valley League boys tennis championship

Fallbrook’s Riley Lenaway gets in position to hit a forehand shot against Ramona, April 25. Shane Gibson

Fallbrook High School’s boys tennis team concluded its regular season April 25 with a 14-4 victory over Ramona at the Fallbrook Tennis Club to give the Warriors a final league record of 8-0 and the 2017 Valley League championship.

“We’re champions by ourselves, finally,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.

Fallbrook and Valley Center shared last year’s Valley League title after splitting the matches with each other, but this year Fallbrook’s March 28 trip to Valley Center for a match at Adams Community Park resulted in an 11-7 victory and the Warriors won a 10-8 match April 20 at the Fallbrook Tennis Club.

“Luckily we’ve been able to hold them off twice,” said Lenaway. “They don’t quite have the depth to beat us.”

A high school tennis match consists of each of a school’s three singles players contesting a set against each of the other school’s singles players and each of the school’s three doubles teams competing against each of their counterparts. Lenaway attributed the additional Valley Center set triumph in the second round to adjustments which attempted to maximize the Jaguars’ victorious sets.

“They altered their lineup a little bit,” Lenaway said.

San Pasqual finished second in the league standings with a 6-2 record and the Golden Eagles’ only league losses were against Fallbrook. The Warriors defeated the Golden Eagles by 12-6 margins March 21 at the Fallbrook Tennis Club and April 6 at San Pasqual. Valley Center had a 4-4 record for third place.

The April 6 match was followed by Spring Break, but Fallbrook returned to competition April 18 at Escondido and won the league match 17-1.

Both of Fallbrook’s wins over Ramona were by 14-4 margins. The Warriors and Bulldogs played their first match March 30 on the Riviera Oaks courts in Ramona. In both matches, Ramona junior Brandan Ruland, who has not lost a league set during his high school career, won all three of his singles sets and the Bulldogs won one doubles set.

Two years ago, Ramona won the league championship, but this year the Bulldogs have only four players who were on the 2016 varsity.

Warrior Max Alperstein returns a shot during doubles competition against Ramona.

“They’re going to build back up eventually,” said Lenaway of the Bulldogs.

Lenaway made that remark about Ramona’s future recovery based upon his experience with the Fallbrook team. In 2014, the Warriors had only seven players and thus forfeited sets in each match. The 2015 Fallbrook program had nine players, so there was no luxury of substitutes and no junior varsity squad.

Current Fallbrook seniors Riley Lenaway, Declan Harrison and Erik Garcia were part of the 2014 team. Current seniors Max Alperstein and Casey Eich joined the squad in 2015 as sophomores with no previous tennis experience. The 2015 newcomers also included current juniors Brett Johnson, Drew Mings, and Stephen Shedd.

“We have a lot of seniors and a lot of them started on our team as freshmen and sophomores,” said Bill Lenaway. “As the years have gone by they’ve improved.”

Fallbrook won two Avocado West League matches against El Camino and a non-league match against Orange Glen in 2014. The 2015 squad had a 3-3 record in Valley League competition but lost all five pre-league matches.

“They all kind of stuck in there,” Bill Lenaway said of his players.

The 2017 squad compiled an overall regular-season record of 13-3, and the players who helped build the team now have an outright league championship.

“It was nice to see them get that done,” Bill Lenaway said. “I think it’s a neat thing for them.”

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