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By Dave Loveton, sports information
Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

Vaqueros eyeing WSC title
Ekola says this could be her best team

Sophie Angner
 The regular-season performance of the SBCC women’s tennis team has been impressive the last two years with a 20-5 record. Now, the Vaqueros hope to take the next step and claim the Western State Conference crown.
 “This could be my strongest team,“ said fourth-year coach Debbie Ekola. “They’re mentally tough and they love to compete.”
 The Vaqueros are off to a perfect start after going 3-0 on a Northern California trip. They’ll make their home debut against 11-time state champion Grossmont on Friday at 2 p.m. Five of their next six matches will be on the Pershing Park courts.
 Julie Rios is the lone returning player from last year’s 10-4 squad that dropped a tight 5-3 decision to Grossmont in the first round of the playoffs. The Vaqueros’ four losses last year were evenly divided between Grossmont and WSC champion Santa Monica, which went on to claim the state title.
 SBCC has finished second in the WSC the last two years with 8-2 records.
 The Vaqueros only have two sophomores on their roster but Ekola says there’s plenty of talent. They’ve been bolstered by Sophie Angner and Henrietta Spetz, a pair of freshmen from Sweden who are playing No. 1 and 3 singles.
 Talia Hudson, a freshman from Santa Barbara High, is No. 2 with Megan Thomas at the 4-spot, Hannah Erickson at No. 5 and Lindsay Penner, who played for SBCC in 2010, at No. 6.
 “Sophie is unbelievable as a competitor,” noted Ekola. “She hits hard, has a great backhand and is mentally tough. She and Talia make an amazing doubles team.”
 Angner is 6-0 in singles and doubles with a 36-4 record in singles games.
 Ekola is being helped out this year by her mom, Louella Parsons, who’s serving as assistant coach. Parsons coached the Vaqueros for three years before her daughter took over the program.
 “This is a freshman team but a very talented one,” Ekola stated. “Maturity will come. It’s not all about winning, it’s about getting better. That’s why I made our preseason schedule so tough.”
 Ekola feels this team can win the WSC title.
 “I think I have my best chance at it with this group,” she said. “I’m very confident with my girls. If they bring their best, we’re tough to beat. They compete very well.
 “I’d love to win the conference. Those wild-card invites to the playoffs are OK but you always get a tough opponent on the road. It would be nice to be conference champ and be at home in the first round.”

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