A Pair of Aces

Christopher Tremblay Staff Sports Writer
The two teammates hug before each meet, a tradition they established.
Issue Date: 
May, 2020
Article Body: 

King Philip’s girls tennis coach Bob Goldberg is going stir-crazy sitting at home, hoping and praying that the coronavirus is eventually cleared up and that the season can finally get underway. Goldberg and his female Warriors are coming off their third consecutive Hockomock League title and were looking forward to making it four. Having lost only one doubles player from last fall, the odds were in their favor.
“It’s driving me crazy as a coach. I felt that the team would have been even stronger than last year,” he said. “While we are all anxious to get onto the courts, I honestly can’t see the MIAA having any sports the rest of the year; health is much more important.”
Goldberg would have been looking at a solid singles group, with juniors Katarina Schneider and Mia Valencia playing second and third singles respectively. The girls have been friends since the second grade, and have made the Warriors a force on the courts when they moved up into singles last spring.
“I first heard of them when they were in the fourth grade,” Goldberg said. “(Ex-KP boys tennis coach) Laurie Puddester told me that I’d be pleasantly surprised with these two girls. When they got here, they were everything Laurie said they would be.”
As freshmen both played doubles, sometimes together, but mostly with an older partner. As sophomores both moved up to play singles and each qualified for the state individual tournament before being knocked out by higher seeds.
While Schneider grew up in a family that played tennis, Valencia got involved in tennis around 10 years old when she joined the Adirondack Club in Franklin.
“I had played soccer for such a long time and lacrosse a bit and was ok at them,” Valencia said. “But when I started playing tennis, I felt that I was good at it and it was something that I could continue to play at any age while getting better.”
The two girls lived in Norfolk and became friends. By the time they got to high school, the duo had both improved their tennis game and were looking to make the high school team.
“My older brother was a captain for the KP boys tennis team years ago, and my goal going into the tryouts was to earn a spot on the varsity team,” Schneider said. “Once I made the team, I was excited and hoping to get a chance to play.”
During their freshman campaign, the two friends found themselves playing doubles. Schneider was usually teamed up with Lucy Barnard while Valencia took to the courts with Grace Ely. On four occasions, however, the two got to play together, going an impressive 3-1 as a freshman doubles team.
“Not only were we both lefties with the same skill sets, we knew each other so well that we could predict what the other was going to do,” Valencia said.
With two singles players graduating after their freshman year, they both knew that there would be openings for them to advance into playing singles as sophomores. Senior Laura Davenport had already secured the number one position, so the friends battled it out for the final two openings. Schneider was able to grab the second singles spot while Valencia played third singles. That season Schneider went 17-2 during the regular season matches, while her best friend posted a very similar 16-3 record as the Warriors captured yet another Hockomock Championship.
“Mia and I have a lot in common and tennis was a way to grow stronger,” Schneider said. “It was a bond where she was not only a close friend, but one in which we were both competitive and pushed one another to be better.”
Goldberg calls the duo the “Bobbsey Twins” as they do everything together.
“Both girls’ games are very similar and there really isn’t too much of a difference,” the KP coach said. “Either girl could be playing number one singles on any other team. It just so happens that we have a very talented number one in Erin Regnier who is tough to beat.”
While the start of the season remains in limbo at Local Town Pages deadline, the two are hoping to eventually get back on the courts and continue to improve their singles games. With only senior Regnier in front of them, the two will once again be looking to battle for that top spot as seniors next season.
“I would really love to play first singles next year, but it can go either way,” Valencia said. “When Katarina and I play, it’s competitive but always fun. Our friendship doesn’t get in the way, we are both trying to win, but when it’s over it’s over.”
While waiting for the outcome of the season, Schneider is continually working on her net play and volleying.
“I’m still hoping that the season is a go,” Schneider said. “We were both looking forward to the season and I hope it happens but it’s too hard to tell if it will.”
Not having a year to compete might hinder a lot of athletes but the KP coach doesn’t believe it will hurt either girl’s performance once they get back onto the court, whether it will be this year or next.
“They are both very good singles players that don’t beat themselves. They do what you tell them to do and if they are beaten it was by a better player,” Goldberg said. “They’re very coachable girls and one of their biggest attributes is that they listen to everything that you say. They pride themselves on listening and adjusting as needed; they’ll both be ready whenever we get back out there.