By Karen Ronney
A championship tradition can be a challenge to maintain, but the Patrick Henry High girls’ tennis team did it with determination, diversity and honor while winning the school’s seventh league title.
The formula was simple: Comprise the team with experienced returning varsity members, senior leadership, an internationally ranked wheelchair player and talented freshmen.
“We were taught to focus on the goal of each practice or the match we were playing that day,” said Alex Loucks, senior team captain. “We didn’t look ahead and we didn’t look back. We hit one ball at a time.”
The Lady Patriots won the Eastern League Championship with an undefeated 12-0 record and they were 16-2 overall in the regular season. This marked Patrick Henry’s seventh league title with a cumulative record of 92-4 since 2008. Also, Patrick Henry was a finalist in the CIF Division II Team Championships beating Rancho Buena Vista, Calexico, and Point Loma high schools en route to being a team finalist. They fell to Pacific Ridge High School in a tough battle.
Lady Patriot senior leadership provided the foundation for that innate sense of unity that makes magic happen on a sports team. The four co-captains at the helm were Loucks with Quynh Uong, Ali Nguyen and Lauren Haneke-Hopps.
Haneke-Hopps is a wheelchair player competing in an able-bodied sports organization. She was a doubles specialist with partner Avery Swain. Together the duo logged a 15-3 record this season.
The wheelchair rule for Haneke-Hopps was that she could hit the ball after two bounces according to International Tennis Federation rulings. She is the only wheelchair player in San Diego CIF competition, and was recently named the Inspirational Student of the Month from the San Diego Unified School District and NBC San Diego She is ranked No. 3 nationally for Wheelchair Women’s A Singles Division and No. 13 in the world in that category.
“When I play with Lauren, I don’t see the wheelchair,” said Swain, a freshman who made a big impact on the team. “I just see my partner Lauren. She is amazing and she is always so positive. She cheers me up no matter what. I am in awe of her.”
Patrick Henry’s singles strength was led by junior No. 1 Julia Ronney; sophomore No. 2 Nikki Wakeland; and seniors No. 3 Stasia Khinich and No. 4 Uong. The doubles teams that anchored the squad were twin sisters Ali and Paulina Nguyen; sisters Alex and junior Jade Loucks; junior Mimi Nguyen and freshmen Amanda Martin; and Haneke-Hopps and Swain. Sophomores Erica Tolley and Alyssa Arnold, and freshman Harper Thomas also contributed in both singles and doubles.
“We had never been to the CIF finals before and it was a great experience,” said Ronney. “Getting this far was a total team effort. Every player on our team made this happen.”
––Karen Ronney is head coach of Patrick Henry High School’s girls’ tennis team.