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Viking tennis serves up memorable 2023 season

Thu Jun 8, 2023

Words like "grit", "depth" and "camaraderie" provide apt descriptions of the West Valley tennis team in 2023. Throw in "undefeated" and "champions" and a more complete picture of one of the great seasons in West Valley athletic history comes into view.

Coach Lauren Hickey's Vikings, just four years removed from the birth of the program after a three decade sabatical, rolled through the Coast Conference with a perfect 12-0 mark and lost just once to a community college program in amassing a 14-2 overall record. The only blemishes were a season-opening loss to NAIA program William Jessup University and a season-ending loss to perrenial power College of the Sequoias in the NorCal finals. In between were 14 consecutive wins, including a NorCal regional semifinal sweep of Reedley, that demostrated a word Hickey used to describe her squad.

"Their unity was a big part of our success this season," she said recently. "Unity was one of the special aspects of this team. Through all the adversity they faced, they overcame all challenges together."

The Vikings spent most of the season as the north's #2-ranked team thanks, in large part, to their line depth creating insurmountable leads after doubles and then clinching matches at the 4, 5 and 6 singles lines.

Two epic matches epitomize the 2023 Vikings:

WVC's depth was on full display March 8 as the Vikings rallied past south #2 College of the Desert 5-4 in Palm Desert. The Vikings found themselves down 4-3 to the Roadrunners as WVC's Lindsay Lee and Lavanika Sharma were competing in their singles matches. Lee won her singles-three match to knot it up at 4-4 and, moments later, Sharma clinched with a hard-fought win in her singles-five match. 

11 days later, the Vikings battled injuries and a tough City College of San Francisco side to take a key 6-3 Coast Conference win at CCSF. Tal Volinsky, a last minute substition in WVC's doubles-one line, teamed with Allison Bartlett for a stunning 8-6 win over Ariel Xu and Alanna Hale. Bartlett and Volinsky found themselves down 6-4 and rallied to take four straight games and give WVC a 1-0 lead in the match. All three WVC doubles teams were on the short end of the score midway through their matches. WVC's D2 pair, Brynn McKenzie and Sonya Hu, trailed Gina Tsiu and Lily Tan, and battled back to send it to a tiebreaker and an eventual 9-8 (8) win. Viking D3's Prokter and Sharma both fought through injuries to also tie things up, before dropping a 9-8 match to Christina Ling and Bernice Zhu.

Lee gave the Vikings a 3-1 lead with a 6-1, 6-0 singles-three win over Alanna Hale. CCSF climbed to within 3-2 when Prokter had to retire in her S1 match against Xu, but Bartlett prevailed 6-1, 6-2 over Ling to capture S2 and give WVC a 4-2 advantage. The Rams stayed within striking distance when an injury forced WVC's McKenzie to retire in her S5 match with Anh Duong. Sharma exemplified the Viking grit on the day in her S6 match with Rosanna Chiu. Battling a lower leg injury, Sharma dropped set one 6-1 and then somehow put together a pair of improbable 6-4 wins to take the match and clinch the win for West Valley. 

A program-record six Vikings qualified for the CCCAA state championship tournament in Ojai. Hu, Lee and Prokter qualified in singles, as did doubles pairs Prokter/Lee, McKenzie/Hu and Sharma/Volinsky. Prokter/Lee reached the quarterfinals. Hu, Lee and Prokter earned All-Coast Conference honors, and Hickey was named the Coast Coach of the Year. Prokter won the ITA NorCal singles title in October 2022 and played in the national championship tournament in Athens, GA.

The 2023 Vikings took care of business in the classroom, too, earning a collective 3.51 team GPA in the fall. They will, undoubtedly pick up another ITA Scholar Team award when its announced this summer. They also put the "community" in community college through volunteer service and were named the 2023 ITA Region One Community Service Award winner.

"The 2023 season was a massive step forward for our program," said Hickey. "I am most proud of all the work they do in the classroom and in the community, as well as on the court."