When the Bay Valley Athletic League was reshuffled in the off-season, Antioch High School girls tennis coach Larry Johnson thought his Lady Panthers had a viable shot at winning the team's first league crown in more than a decade. After all, Carondelet (last year's team title winner) and Clayton Valley (consistently at or near the top of the standings) were no longer on the schedule.
But when Antioch opened the season with back-to-back losses to Heritage and Freedom, Johnson began to rethink his original prediction. When we started with those two losses, I thought maybe this isn't our year, Johnson admitted.
Apparently his players felt otherwise. Since its 0-2 start, the team has won 12 straight matches and, as of Wednesday morning, was ranked first in the BVAL. Heritage was one game behind in second place.
Led by twins Kaitlin and Meghan Simarro, who top the singles ladder, Antioch's entire roster of singles and doubles players boasts winning records.
Kaitlin Simarro has suffered just three losses all season, all of which came at the hands of Freedom sensation Sarah Osborn. Her sister Meghan carries a 13-1 record at the No. 2 spot.
When you get a one and two that have lost only four matches all season, that's pretty good, Johnson said. We haven't really changed our singles lineup all season, and that's because everyone is doing such a great job at their individual positions. They all have good, winning records.
Cassie McGrath (8-6 at the No. 3 position), Meagan Santos (7-4 at No. 4), Jessica Jauregui (10-3 at No. 5) and Laura Smith (10-4 at No. 6) round out a talented singles ladder that Johnson said has set the pace for the season.
But if Antioch's singles players have set the pace, the doubles players have kept the momentum going, growing stronger in recent weeks. Unlike the singles ladder, the doubles teams have experienced some healthy challengematches in practice, resulting in a regular shift in position.
For the last five matches, Kayla Briney and Kaleigh Silvera have held down the No. 1 doubles spot and were 10-3 after beating Liberty on Tuesday. When her partner left the team for personal reasons six weeks ago, Shannon West was partnered with Jana Cicerello at the No. 2 position. Since the move, the pair is 7-1.
Kim Smart was brought up from the JV team to play the No. 3 spot with senior Miranda Ketchum, and in that time, they've tallied a 6-2 record.
The Panthers took on Heritage on Thursday after the Press went to print. A win over the Patriots would give Antioch sole possession of first place, while a loss would put them at a tie, requiring a tie-breaker match to be played on Friday in Brentwood.