Jefferson’s girls tennis team has high hopes for its 2014 season. A consistent winner during their bygone years in Division 6, the Colonials are aiming for region and state championships after their school’s recent move down to Division 5.
Those goals remain firmly in mind as the team transitions to conference play this week, but in a way the TJ girls already secured a successful season with a 6-3 win over Langley last Wednesday. Pushing their record to 3-0 was hardly part of the story. Vanquishing an old Liberty District foe they might not see on the schedule next year meant everything.
“For us, that’s really all the season’s about, to be honest. Everything else is just for fun,” Jefferson coach Simon Harrington said. “It’s not as important to me, but our seniors had never had a win over Langley, and I think we’ve probably had wins over every other team around. So for them, I think that’s a special thing.”
The Colonials’ big win came at the expense of an inexperienced Langley side that returned just one starter to the fold this year. The Saxons are still finding their footing after their top player, Sydney Goodson, decided to forgo her junior season in favor of tournament play. None of that could temper Jefferson’s excitement, though, not after blowout losses in each of their previous seven meetings with the Saxons.
Langley’s struggles coincide with a Jefferson squad looking stronger than ever. Rena Liu, the Colonials’ top player since her freshman year, has assumed newfound leadership as a senior captain. At her back is a deep Jefferson lineup showing no signs of weakness in the top six, especially with the arrival of Jelena Liu, a hard-hitting freshman currently holding down the No. 4 spot. One could be forgiven for assuming Jelena and Rena are related, especially given the similar intensity of their ground strokes.
Anna Venetianer, Ankitha Yanamandra, Victoria Xia, Chantal Losso, Stephanie Do and Kavya Ravikanti have all stepped up to give the team plenty of options going forward.
“It’s really great because right now the bottom half of our starters, there’s a lot of people that can play really well in those positions,” said Rena, a regular at 4 Star Tennis Academy. “There’s a lot of competition right now for those positions, so I’ll be really excited to see how that stacks up.”
With 21 players on the roster this year, Harrington is working with the biggest and most talented group he’s had at TJ.
“It’s nice to give everybody a chance and to have the feeling of making the varsity team,” Harrington said. “They can feel pride in the accomplishment. Part of my job is to grow the game. And if they have a good time and enjoy it, they’ll come back working hard to improve for next year because they want to crack into that top six.”
Rena was out sick for Monday’s match against Stone Bridge, a quality side that handed the Colonials a narrow 5-4 defeat. Jefferson bounced back with a 9-0 romp over Fairfax on Tuesday, bringing the team’s record to 4-1 on the young season. With triumphs over Langley, McLean and Madison behind them, the Colonials are already past the most difficult portion of their regular-season schedule.
“We’re extremely excited to see what we can do this year,” Rena said.