Tribune Tennis Players of the Year: Courtney Byron and Andy Nguyen - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Tribune Tennis Players of the Year: Courtney Byron and Andy Nguyen

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Posted: Monday, June 4, 2007 1:10 pm | Updated: 6:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Courtney Byron knows what it means to be in the spotlight. The Scottsdale Notre Dame player not only successfully defended her 4A-II state girls tennis championship this season, she was also the best player in Arizona in 2007, earning a No. 1 ranking in the 16-plus age group of the USTA’s Southwest Section.

While Byron’s passionate style of play earns her plenty of attention, off the court, she eschews it.

“I want to be known as a friendly person. I’m just a normal person who wants to have fun with what she does,” Byron said.

Byron, a junior at Notre Dame, is the Tribune’s girls tennis player of the year after an undefeated season that culminated in a second title and also helped the Saints capture a team state title.

“I think the only reason she plays for Notre Dame is that she wants to be part of a team,” Saints coach Shelley Dinges said. “However, she is quite humble about her abilities, and unless you know what she does, you would never how good a player she is.

“She’s an exceptional player, but even more, she is also an exceptional person.”

Dinges said Byron was more proud of her team taking state than her own accomplishment, and Byron agreed.

“It took all of us,” said Byron, who never strays far after a match in order to make sure she cheers for teammates and friends. “I feel we have really good camaraderie, and it was what we needed to win.”

For someone with tennis in her genes (father John played for Arizona State, mother Sue played for Western Michigan), she is the first to admit she does not watch professional tennis on TV.

“I’m either playing or practicing, and when I’m not doing that, I’m studying or hanging out with my friends,” she said. “I’d rather play it or watch it in person.”

Byron heads into her senior year with a goal to repeat as state champion, but she’s also making plans for college.

“I’ve made a video, and I’m looking at a few West Coast schools, but I have to keep my options open,” she said. “I want to enjoy my senior year, try not to get senioritis, keep my grades up, and go from there.”

Looking Back

MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2007 SEASON

Suspense: Notre Dame’s girls tennis team held a sizeable lead early in 4A-II team competition but watched its chances come down to the wire after Arcadia’s Gabi Zerbib upset Notre Dame’s Andy Londen. It took unheralded Danielle Puente’s 7-5, 6-4 win for the Saints to capture the state title over their rivals.

Youth is served: Several freshmen to watch for next year include 5A-II champion Emily Harris of Desert Mountain, Queen Creek’s Chelsea Sloan and Corona del Sol’s Kelsey Lawson. All three were in the thick of both the team and individual championship battles this past spring.

Dust, wind, heat: This year’s 5A and 4A tennis players got to experience several different versions of Arizona weather during regional and state championship matches. One week provided cooler-than-average temperatures, the next a mix of heat, wind and even a few sprinkles. A rare dust storm added to the drama of the 4A individual tournament, putting two nail-biter matches on hold for 45 minutes.

Class 5A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Comment

Kacie Wagner Gilbert Jr. 5A-I state champion

Emily Harris Desert Mtn. Fr. 5A-II champ upset two higher seeds en route

Shawni Porter Red Mountain Jr. Fought Wagner to three sets in title match

Michaela Oldani Desert Mtn. So. Undefeated reg. season; second in 5A-II

Kelsey Lawson Corona del Sol Fr. Finished third in 5A-I championships

Sarah Serrano Xavier Fr. Placed fourth in Kiwanis Tournament

Athlete of the Year: Kacie Wagner, Gilbert

Coach of the Year: Desert Mountain’s Kim Greenawalt wins for the second year in a row. Greenawalt, who is retiring at the end of this year after 40 years of teaching and 11 years of coaching, did it again with Harris (freshman) and Oldani (sophomore) going 1-2 in the state individual championship matches and also capturing the girls team title. “It’s time to turn it over to younger folks,” Greenawalt said.

Class 5A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Comment

Hannah Harris Desert Mtn. Sr. Sound play helped Wolves to state title

Hilary Valenzuela Red Mountain Jr. Top eight, lost to eventual champion Wagner

Michelle Yu Xavier So. Won doubles title at Kiwanis in February

Ashley Wingersky Xavier Jr. Along with Yu, won Kiwanis girls doubles title

Shelley Johnson Horizon Jr. & Chelsi Redpath Horizon Jr. Duo made finals of 5A-I doubles, losing to the McGeorge sisters of Salpointe

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Comment

Courtney Byron Notre Dame Jr. Two-time defending 4A-II champ, undefeated

Retta Byron Arcadia Sr. Helped team to second place at state

Chelsea Sloan Queen Creek Fr. Won regional, made 4A-II state title match

Andy Londen Notre Dame Jr. Teamed w/Jackie Chang for 4A-II doubles title

Kendra Simon Phx. Country Day So. Beat teammate Arianna Rose for 2nd 2A title

Eleanor Beatty Seton Catholic Jr. Finished second in 3A individuals

Athlete of the Year: Courtney Byron, Notre Dame

Coach of the Year: Shelley Dinges, Notre Dame. Dinges made sure the team did not put everything on Byron and had others on the team believing they could taste gold. “If you want to be best, you have to work harder than everybody else, and this is how it pays off,” Dinges said.

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Comment

Gabi Zerbib Arcadia Fr. Finished fourth in 4A-II singles

Arianna Rivera Florence Jr. & Codi Sichling Florence Jr. Captured 3A doubles championship in first year as a duo

Molly McCarville Seton Catholic So. Final four in 3A; helped team to 2nd place

Arianna Rose Phx. Country Day So. Finished 2nd to teammate Simon in 2A finals

BOYS

It wasn’t easy for Andy Nguyen to become a state champion in 5A tennis. Phoenix Brophy and Tucson Salpointe had challengers lurking, and one of the best players in the state was on the same Phoenix Mountain Pointe practice court every day.

But the Pride sophomore endured three long, grueling matches in the state tournament and emerged victorious. In so doing, he is the Tribune’s player of the year.

Nguyen, who is also ranked first in the 16-plus age group of the USTA’s Southwest Section 16 singles, beat Ian Mordaunt of Salpointe (ranked third in the 18 singles in the Southwest) in the 5A-I championship match.

Nguyen credits his older brother, Dan, with helping him reach championship level.

“I’ve learned a lot practicing with him, ever since I was little,” Nguyen said. “Whatever I do, he’s been there for me, and I credit him for helping me get here.”

Dan Nguyen, a junior at Harvard, was recently named captain of the Crimson tennis team and received an honorable mention for the All-Ivy League team.

The older sibling won the state title for Mountain Pointe as a senior in 2004.

However, Andy Nguyen finds himself with an opportunity to break new ground by winning three straight.

“It is all about preparation,” he said. “I have to practice hard every day, play a lot of national tournaments, and then get lucky.”

One of his teammates, senior Erik Sheldon, started the season as one of the players to beat, but Mountain Pointe coach Dan Ray knew early in the season that either one could be a state champion.

“We push each other,” said Nguyen, who won a doubles title with Sheldon in 2006. “We know how each other plays and how to make each other better.”

It certainly worked for Nguyen this year.

Looking Back

MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2007 SEASON

Big rally: Mountain Pointe’s Erik Sheldon and doubles partner Tyler Petcher helped their team get into the 5A-I finals with a spectacular comeback against the Brophy duo of Eric Chalmers and Chris Salvatore. Down 9-6, Sheldon and Petcher ended up winning 11-10.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dust: Marcos de Niza junior Sean O’Grady knew his 5A-II opponent, Joseph Adewumi of Phoenix North Canyon, was the favorite. But O’Grady played spectacular tennis and withstood the distraction of a dust storm for an upset and an individual title.

Youth is served: Keep an eye on Marcos de Niza’s James Carr. He took third in the 5A-II individual tournament and was in the thick of the team tournament for the semifinalist Padres.

Class 5A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Comment

Sean O’Grady Marcos de Niza Jr. 5A-II boys state champion

Erik Sheldon Mtn. Pointe Sr. Propelled team into finals w/great doubles play

Andy Nguyen Mtn. Pointe So. 5A-I boys state champion

James Carr Marcos de Niza Fr. 4th-place finish in 5A-II championships

Tyler Krauch Red Mountain Sr. 4th-place finish in 5A-I championships

Brendan Amland Desert Mtn. Sr. 5A-II doubles title with

Andrew McCurdy Athlete of the Year: Andy Nguyen, Mountain Pointe

Coach of the Year: Desert Mountain’s Dan Lefevre took a newcomer (Brendan Amland) and a veteran ready to close out his tennis career (Andrew McCurdy), plus two freshmen (Jeremy Shapiore and Brian Merdinger) and propelled the team to a second straight title in 5A-II.

Class 5A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Comment

Ahmad Saleem Desert Vista Fr. 2nd in 5A-I doubles with

Jacob Barnaby Jacob Barnaby Desert Vista Jr. With Saleem, captured Kiwanis doubles

Eric Chalmers Brophy Fr. & Chris Salvatore Brophy Fr. Duo helped the Broncos to a Kiwanis Tournament win in February Bryce Kessler Brophy Jr. Top 8 in 5A-I, lost to champ Nguyen

Tyler Petcher Mtn. Pointe So. Helped Pride upset Brophy in state semis Andrew McCurdy Desert Mtn. Sr. With Amland, won doubles title

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune first team

Player School Yr. Comment

Kevin Anderson Cactus Shadows Jr. Second in 4A-II, helped Falcons win team title

Drake Kakar Chaparral Jr. 4A-I runner-up for second straight year

Joe Juliano Seton Catholic Jr. Captured 3A individual title

Brian Dales Cactus Shadows Jr. Final four in 4A-II; helped Falcons to team title

Daniel Plasencia Arcadia Jr. Finished third in 4A-II singles

Kevon O’Rear Higley Sr. Made final eight of 4A-II singles

Athlete of the Year: Drake Kakar, Chaparral

Coach of the Year: Bob Dice, Cactus Shadows. Took a team of two juniors and the rest freshman and won the 4A-II team title. His chore gets considerably tougher next year as Cactus Shadows moves to 4A-I.

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune second team

Player School Yr. Comment

Austin Dales Cactus Shadows Fr. Win in 4A-II team finals part of state title run

Kurt Waardenburg Florence Sr. Final four of 3A singles

Cole Goodyear Phx. Country Day So. & Steven Corey Phx. Country Day So. Duo combined to win 1A-2A championship Nik Hills Coolidge Sr. Doubles team had a surprising second place Niklas Nolzen Coolidge Sr. finish in 3A tennis. 4A-2A

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