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Coaches Blessed With Abundance of Talent

September 15, 2003|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

Cheyenne Reveche looks at North Hollywood Campbell Hall's girls' tennis roster and wonders just how good the Vikings can be.

"We have so many good players," she said. "Mostly everyone plays tournaments all year round, so we mean business when we play."

As Reveche and her Viking teammates prepare for a new season, Coach Steve Kuechel looks at the team in wonder.

"We definitely are loaded this year, there's no doubt about it," he said. "It could potentially be a dream team. I'm still figuring things out. I'm going to have to find the lineup that's the strongest for us. But it's a good problem to have."

Campbell Hall is one of several teams this season that will be trying to solve such an issue.

The first seven teams in The Times' preseason rankings are loaded, almost overflowing, with so much talent that coaches hardly know what to do with it.

"This squad, if everyone plays, could be one of the best teams in history," said Coach Marc Behrman, in his first season at Calabasas. "We're looking good, looking forward to the season so we can show off our talent and show everybody what we've got."

What the Coyotes have is three players in the top 20 in the USTA's girls' 18 division rankings for Southern California -- junior Amanda Fink (No. 9), senior Celia Durkin (No. 18) and sophomore Kristen McVitty (No. 19) -- as well as freshmen Erin Wiesener (No. 36 in the 14s) and Jillian Schnitman (No. 93 in 14s), who recently won the Maccabi Games title. Senior Cory Ceizler and sophomores Helen Kolpakov, Jen Bernstein and Jana Lipson also have junior-circuit experience.

The Coyotes are consensus early favorites to defend the Southern Section Division I title they won last season over Beverly Hills. But they're not as good as they might have been.

Wiesener's older sister, senior Monica Wiesener, is No. 11 in girls' 18s in Southern California but is in an independent-study program and will sit out high school tennis for the second year in a row. Karina Porushkevich, a Calabasas sophomore, is No. 33 in the same division and coached privately by Robert Lansdorp, who has mentored several top professional players. But Porushkevich too has decided not to compete.

Opposing coaches can't help but be glad.

"They shouldn't even be allowed," Beverly Hills Coach Mike Margolin said with a laugh. "But seriously, when a team is that ridiculously strong, you sort of want them all to be there. If they all play, the team's going to be so far and away better than anybody else that you should be rooting for them."

Thanks to the glut of elite players, frequent challenge matches and ever-changing lineup rotations will be commonplace among the best teams. So will top-notch singles players' appearances in doubles matches.

"Our doubles is just packed," Laguna Beach sophomore Lorren Butterwick said. "We have tournament players playing doubles."

Laguna Beach senior Jackie Reed believes that can only be a good thing for the Breakers, who fell to Beverly Hills in the Division I semifinals in 2002.

"Last year, we had some problems at No. 3 doubles. This year, we'll have none," said Reed, a member of the No. 1 doubles team the last three years.

"I've come to realize that if you're going to win, doubles is important."

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