ALL-SANTA CLARITA VALLEY: GIRLS' TENNIS PLAYER OF THE YEAR.
When Cassie Strange and her twin sister, Alexa, arrived in the Santa Clarita Valley from El Paso, Texas, they were just hoping to meet some nice girls and play on a competitive high school tennis team.
During three years at Valencia High, they wound up making several friends and elevating the Vikings to one of the area's elite girls' tennis teams and one of the top programs in Southern Section Div. III.
``I really have Cassie and Alexa to thank, as we never would have gotten as far as we did the last few years without them,'' Valencia coach Annie Kellogg said. ``They are such fabulous girls, players and people. I have always felt truly blessed that they came here to Valencia.''
With Alexa, the team's No. 2 singles player during the regular season, limited to doubles in the playoffs because of an ankle injury, Cassie Strange elevated her game to lead the Vikings to their first appearance in a division final. Valencia's historic run included a dramatic 11-7 semifinal victory over two-time defending champion Campbell Hall of North Hollywood.
``I don't think any one of us played better than we did that day,'' said Cassie Strange, who recorded two of the biggest victories of her career against Michelle Sulahian and Alison Wagner. ``All of us seniors wanted to leave here with something to look back on, and you can't ever see results unless you want it.
``That should've been the final. It was just an incredible feeling.''
Valencia lost 10-8 to Brentwood in the championship match at the Claremont Club and finished with a 21-3 record. Cassie Strange, who won the Foothill League singles title and advanced to the third round of the Southern Section individual tournament, finished with a 55-7 set record.
``We showed that Valencia is a force to be reckoned with, and we gained the respect we all deserved,'' Strange said. ``But the thing that sticks out in my mind the most is how we became so close. We were like family.''
DOUBLES TEAM OF THE YEAR
Kristin Anderson, Sr./Monique Palmera, Jr.
ALL-SANTA CLARITA VALLEY
Michelle Stock, Jr., Valencia
Alexa Strange, Sr., Valencia
Thalia Wilczynski, Fr., Saugus
Carissa Eisler, Sr., and Alessandra Horii, Sr., Valencia
Heather Kerschen, Sr., and Lehren MacKay, Soph., Valencia
Elizabeth Tang, Jr., and Isabella Tang, Jr., Hart
photo, 2 boxes
Cassie Strange helped lead the Valencia High girls' tennis team to its first Southern Section division final appearance.
John Lazar/Staff Photographer
(1) DOUBLES TEAM OF THE YEAR (see text)
(2) DAILY NEWS ALL-SANTA CLARITA VALLEY (see text)