Team of the Month: Great chemistry, talent key to Royals’ history-making season

For the first time in school history, San Marcos reigns as the outright champion of the Channel League in girls tennis, ending Santa Barbara High’s 33-year hold on the title.

The history-making accomplishment is a dream come true for Royals senior captains Julia Frohling, Summer Bosse and Renee Handley and their coach Fred Hartzman.

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Frohling says she’s still trying to wrap her head around the fact she is part of school history. Bosse describes it as an amazing feeling. And Handley calls winning the title a reward for all the hard work she’s put in the last four years.

For Hartzman, a 1981 San Marcos graduate, beating Santa Barbara and winning the league has special significance. “I was a three-year player (when San Marcos was a three-year high school) and we got killed by Santa Barbara every year,” he recalled. “My first three years coaching here we got killed by Santa Barbara. Personally, (winning the title) felt good. It’s a huge accomplishment. I have all the respect for Santa Barbara; their coach is a personal friend of mine.”

He said Santa Barbara coach Sally Becker was the first to congratulate him. She sent him a phone text immediately after her Dons defeated Dos Pueblos, which clinched the outright title for the Royals.

“It’s been such a journey,” Frohling said of her four years of playing on the varsity. “It’s been really fun to just bond with the team and build up the team for four years. And to do it as senior is even bigger.”

All three seniors agree that chemistry among the players has been a key part of the team’s success.

Said Bosse: It’s just really amazing for us to all come together because there are a lot of new girls on the team this year. To see it come together and to have the best season we’ve had since I’ve been at San Marcos, or in the past 33 years, it’s just amazing to be part of it.”

She noted there are no cliques on the team and that everyone gets along, plays hard and has fun.

The members of the 2015 San Marcos girls tennis team are: Yuka Perera, Kelly Coulson, Minu Traufetter, Renee Handley, Sarah Yang, Julia Frohling, Carley McDaniel, Josephine Pulver, Maura Mannix, Summer Bosse, Sarah Douglas and Olivia Sturman.

For Handley, who considered going to Santa Barbara High when she was in the 8th grade, she “never anticipated us winning Channel League, beating Santa Barbara or even DP,” she said. “As a senior, it feels really good. I feel the work I put in has paid off. I’m really excited for all my teammates and my fellow seniors as well.”

Hartzman had a good idea during the summer that San Marcos could be a serious title contender.

In addition to the group of experienced seniors, he had two tournament-tested freshmen players coming in.

“Yuka Perera and Kelly Coulson are both tournament players. We knew right there we were going to probably have our top two players with a lot of experience who also bring a good work ethic,” Hartzman said. “Even though they’re young, they have a great work ethic. The girls right away looked up to them because of how good they were and realized they got that good because of how hard they work at tennis.”

Yuka’s older brother, Kento, plays for the San Marcos boys tennis team and is the Channel League singles champion.

If the talented freshmen weren’t enough, Hartzman got the news that Sarah Yang, a senior transfer from Massachusetts, was enrolling at San Marcos. She was a state doubles champion in 2014 and part of three state championship teams at Concord-Carlisle High.

Newcomers Yuka Perera, left, Sarah Yang, center, and Kelly Coulson, right, have all been difference makers this season.

Newcomers Yuka Perera, left, Sarah Yang, center, and Kelly Coulson, right, have all been difference makers this season.

“When she came on board and started practicing with the team, and after I watched her at the first practice match, I knew we had a pretty good team,” Hartzman said.

Yang joined forces with Handley and the pair immediately clicked. They are undefeated on the season.

“Putting those two together, with the work ethic of both, just set the example for everyone else on the team,” Hartzman said.

Handley, who played singles her first three seasons, remembers getting a call from Hartzman about Yang joining the squad.

“I’m on vacation the last week of summer and Fred calls and says, ‘We’ve got this girl, Sarah, she’s a two-star recruit and she seems pretty good. Come out on the first day of practice and let’s see what happens,’” Handley recalled of the conversation.

The two have been great together. Handley is so fired up she’s been watching videos of the renowned American doubles team the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) to pick up pointers.

With all of the experience and talent on the squad, Hartzman made sure the team was physically fit for the season. “I put them on a really tough workout regimen,” he said. “I had high expectations. From Day 1, they worked hard. I told them, ‘Let’s be the fittest team out there.’ That was really important. We had the hot days and we were working through it, and nobody complained. I thought, ‘This team could be something special.’”

Bosse said that while every year the team goes into the season thinking it can win the title, “this year was more of a reality. We knew we could do it. We just had to keep working.”

When San Marcos defeated Santa Barbara for the first time since 1998 and ended the Dons’ 77-match league win streak, she said it was “an eye-opening moment” for the team. “We realized we can do this, we have the potential to go and be Channel League champions.”

The title is a crowning moment for Hartzman, who came on board four years ago and worked with Alex Sheldon before taking over the program.

“What’s impressive about what’s happening here is five to six years ago they couldn’t find enough girls to make a team,” he said. “They were going around to others sports looking for girls who knew how to play tennis. From that to now, we have tryouts where we have 45 girls come out.

“The program has really grown and I’m really happy for the school.”

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