The years have been good in Ahwatukee tennis, circles although last year was far from being among the best campaigns.
The pieces seem to be in place for a return to form as the season gets under way this week, and indications are it could be a good year.
The Mountain Pointe boys expect to get back to their winning ways after missing the team event last year and none of the individuals advanced past the second round at state.
Last season was off from the start with top player Monty Roth out with a wrist injury.
He is back now and puts everyone else back into their proper slot in the starting six. Roth, a senior who lost in the first round of state last season, eventually came back but was never right.
Also returning are David Battock, Jonah Matanky, Jacob Matanky, and Tyler Garrett, while freshman Sina Mallek should move into the fourth of fifth spot.
It gives the Pride a formidable lineup with a chance to make the most of an opportunity.
“A lot of the top teams, other than Brophy, lost their top players,” Pride coach Larry Holmes said. “It will make for a more even playing field. We think we can be in that mix.
“Last year wasn’t up to our standard and we expect to be back in the mix with the players we have coming back.”
The Desert Vista boys lost in the state quarterfinals last season to Brophy in the team event while Mohammed Saleem, who made the Sweet Sixteen in singles, is back to make a deeper run.
The rest of the lineup is not defined with junior Michael Hopper and freshman Yusuf Saleem among the competitors as the season began.
Thunder coach Wayne Brimley said the team will be competitive with the older Saleem out front.
“We have no superstars but we have overall good tennis players,” he said. “We should be 10-plus match winners and advance well into the playoffs.”
On the girls side the Pride is being led again by Rick Carter after a one-year hiatus.
He comes back to four quality players with a chance to get the Pride back into the state tournament’s 16-team field.
Senior Mae Maiefski, who lost in the first round of singles after making it to the final eight as a sophomore, and senior Anastasia Pushkarenko return as Mountain Pointe’s top players. He also has some young talent to work with in sophomore Carla Poplawsky and Viann Pham after they made it to the second round of state in doubles.
The Thunder girls lost in the state quarterfinals after making it to the semifinals the season before. The young talent coming back, plus a good mix of talented freshmen among the 35 girls on the team, has coach Angel Singler excited.
“We expect to do well in the (section),” she said. “We should show strong at All-City this year along with finishing in the top four in the state.”
The top three individuals are very strong as sophomore Melissa Kahn returns after a disappointing end to last season. She lost only once all season, but missed state because of an illness.
Backing her will be sophomore Yolana Carlon, who will pair with Kahn for the top doubles team, and junior Tori Kammerzell, who advanced to the third round of state last year after replacing Kahn in the singles tournament.
“It’s a young squad with lots of experience in tournament tennis,” Singer said.
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