Senior Zahid Ahmad, who takes over the No. 1 slot from his older brother Abid, has set his sights on continued domination of the Bay Valley Athletic League. Last season, Zahid went undefeated throughout league play and made it deep into the North Coast Section tournament as a doubles player.
The Wolverines return several athletes from last year’s league title team, including five of its six singles players – Ahmad, junior Cameron Yee, senior Zac Grosser, junior Jeremy Gonzales and senior Adam Alemneu.
Deer Valley maintained the solidarity of its doubles pairings as well. The top duo of juniors Jeremy Rotman and Michael Djaja are back. One notable newcomer is No. 2 singles player Zac Ea, a freshman who has been impressive in preseason.
“We’re headed down the right road,” head coach Brian Richardson said. “We just have to keep our focus.”
Deer Valley is already turning some heads after claiming victories over non-league schools such as De La Salle and Berkeley. Richardson believes the rugged preseason schedule makes the Wolverines battle-tested as league play starts.
Heritage, one of the top teams in the league last season, is starting nearly from scratch this year. The Patriots lost 11 of the 12 varsity athletes from last year’s team to graduation. The one returning player is No. 2 singles athlete Adam Tamura, a junior.
What the Patriots lack in varsity experience, they make up for in talent. At the top of the singles ladder is freshman Trevor Samuda. Head coach Mike Carmen said Samuda, the brother of 2010 BVAL girls champion Arlesha Samuda, is already one of the most seasoned athletes on the team.
Samuda already owns a title, winning the recent Richards/Kelly Memorial Tournament in Oakley. Another freshman to watch is Worku Ousman, Heritage’s No. 5 singles athlete.
“It’s nice because we’ll have them for a long time,” Carmen said of his younger players. “I’m hoping we can surprise a lot of people and hopefully compete for a league title.”
Seniors Josiah Younger and Adam Neilson comprise the Patriots’ top doubles squad. Both played for Heritage’s junior varsity squad, and Carmen is excited to see what they can do this season.
Freedom senior Justin Monge, who got a taste of the No. 1 slot last season, returns to the top spot fully in his possession. Falcons head coach Steve Amaro said Monge has shown the ability to lead by example and put in the necessary work.
Amaro feels that the team’s strength is its singles ladder, led by Monge.
A few new athletes have a chance to compete for Freedom this season. Senior David Moe, whose sister Michelle starred for the Falcons a few years ago, could impress out of the No. 5 singles slot. Freshman singles player Seth Dike has also done well in preseason.
Amaro is excited for senior Jarrelle Tramble, a member of the No. 1 doubles team, who has developed a powerful serve that can be a useful weapon this season. Tramble is paired up with Drake Miller. Andrew Polk is another doubles athlete, along with partner Miguel Gilmore, who could have a solid year.
Antioch has a good mix of returners and newcomers, as the Panthers hope to climb the BVAL ranks.
Senior Ikram Najib returns as Antioch’s No. 1 singles player, and head coach Larry Johnson believes he can continue to improve. At the recent Richards/Kelly Memorial Tournament, Najib placed fifth against competition from across Northern California.
Sophomore Michael Bonzi returns to man the No. 2 slot. Jarrod Sarinas and Antonio Hernandez create a formidable No. 1 team.
“I hope they’ve improved with the time off,” Johnson said of his team. “It gives us a chance to be optimistic.”
One of the key new athletes for Antioch is a transfer from Illinois, senior Devonn Garrison, who pairs with Sascha Ko in the No. 3 doubles slot. Doubles player Deondre Grady, a senior, also shows some promise in his first year on the court.
Liberty had problems fielding a full team last season, but head coach Thurston Brice feels that this year’s team has some talent and can compete.
The lone senior on the Lions’ young squad is No. 1 singles player Jordan Tickner. Most of the players still have some time left at Liberty, such as sophomore Noah Wang, the No. 2 singles player, and junior Hank Tien, who will play in the No. 3 singles spot.
The Lions’ doubles players are nearly all sophomores. Cody Marlin and Nick Fallon are the two second-year players atop the doubles card.
“We’re young,” Brice said. “We’re going to do OK in league, so long as we can get our heads straight.”
Brice is excited to see the progression of Arne Schmidt, a German transfer student who recently started playing tennis, but has already made significant progress in the No. 4 singles slot.
First-year head coach George Zumbro leads a Pittsburg team looking to develop its skills this season.
The Pirates will count on five seniors to guide them through the rough waters of the BVAL – Kevin Caranto, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jose Pascual, Robert Kirkham and Roberto Ruiz. Zumbro, who spent the last 15 years as a tennis instructor, said Pascual and Caranto are battling it out for the No. 1 singles spot.
A cadre of talented Pittsburg players who will return next season includes juniors Harold Ningas and Abraham Padilla, plus freshmen Milton Torres, Vincent Parungao and Joshua Balbuena.
Zumbro noted that his team is loaded with players who lack experience on the court but have been astute pupils. The main weakness will be depth, as the Pirates might not be able to field a 12-man squad this season.
“I feel that they’re an interesting group of boys,” Zumbro said. “I’m hoping that they will mature.”