PaliHi Girls Tennis Leads Los Angeles

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

This is the kind of team that a coach dreams about. An abundant wealth of talent and so much depth that even making the varsity team is not a given.

And even more importantly, “They’re all great kids and they all get along,” said Coach Bud Kling who returns for his 24th season as the Palisades High School girls tennis coach.

The season is just underway and Kling is excited about the possibilities. He has 15 girls on varsity and 11 on junior varsity— and all are good players. Ray Hugill will start as his second year as JV coach.

Neither his first nor second player is returning this year, but already with transfers and incoming freshman, he feels that although this is a young team (he only has three seniors), it’s one of the strongest he’s had in years.

“This is a fantastic team,” Kling said. “The parents are fantastic, too. I’ll ask for five drivers [to matches] and I’ll have 12 volunteers.”

This year’s varsity tennis players, coached by Bud Kling, include (left to right) Halsey Hulse, Noe Winter, Ireland Amato, Caroline Ross, Kalea Martin, Kate Harrington, Alex Miller, Taylor Barfield, Sophia Arvin and in the front (left to right) Claudia Goore, Sarah Slavkin, Gigi Feingold, Sophia Amato, Bliss Macdowell, and Maddy Goore. Not pictured is Alex Hart.

Last year, his team was 12-0 in League and overall 20-3. Since 1976, the team has only lost two League titles. Last fall, the Dolphins beat Granada Hills in the City Section Division I finals to claim the 17th city title for the girls.

Most likely starting in singles will be identical twins Ireland and Sophia Amato, who played with PaliHi as freshmen, moved to Pennsylvania last year, but are back this year. They helped PaliHi win a third consecutive team crown in 2015.

“Sophia Arvin and Taylor Barfield are fighting for three and four,” Kling said, pointing out that six of his double players from last year have returned: Gigi Feingold, Caroline Ross, Alex Hart, Maddy Goore, Kate Harrington and Alex Miller, but with the influx of talent, the competition is intense.

“I have 11 players fighting for six spots,” he said. “A bulk of the Revere tennis team, which won the Delphic League last year are at PaliHi this year.” (The Delphic middle school league includes Harvard-Westlake, Brentwood, Chaminade, Oaks Christian and Culver City.) Four of the players have made varsity as freshmen and include Claudia Goore, Halsey Hulse, Sarah Slavkin and Noe Winter.

“The competition is extremely close about who will start in doubles,” Kling said. Joining the varsity team this year is Kalea Martin (who was home-schooled) and Bliss Macdowell (a transfer from Marymount).

Also new this year to high school tennis is Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) which means that kids playing high school matches can use those points towards rankings. Winning games and sets against higher-rated adversaries raises one’s own UTR when the match is recorded. Winning more games (either by a larger margin or losing by a small margin) against a given opponent also can help one’s UTR. “This will be a source of getting more points towards rankings,” Kling said.

The team played Marymount on August 31, winning 151⁄2-21⁄2. They will play Santa Monica on September 6 before traveling to Fresno/Clovis for the California Tennis Classic tournament on September 8 and 9. Currently about 93 teams from all over California have entered. “I plan to rotate players at the tournament,” Kling said, who noted he wanted to see as many of his team play as he could. (For more information, visit californiatennisclassic.com).

There is one problem.

With all the talent and the number of girls, there is a lack of places to practice. The school has permitted three courts at the Recreation Center from 2:30 to 5 and there are two courts at the school, but they are in bad shape and haven’t been resurfaced for at least a decade.

If Kling had one dream, it would be for those courts to be fixed—and it might also be nice to have more courts. Right now, 26 players share five courts. “My single players don’t get to play singles [during practice],” he said.

Last spring, Kling was inducted into the L.A. City Hall of Fame. He leads all coaches in the City Section with 42 titles. During his tenure as a coach at Pali, he’s had 1,131 wins, 120 losses. The National record is around 1,222 wins and with this young team, it’s a matter of time before Kling breaks that record.

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