Arcata, NPA girls looking to make NCS tennis history

Submitted photo – From left to right, Arcata’s Astreya McKnight, Jasmine McKnight, Keona Gutierrez-DeArmond, Kyra Alway, Jenna Renteria and Keira Tatro.

By Ray Hamill — Four years after her breakthrough postseason performance, Arcata senior Keona Gutierrez DeArmond is determined to close out her high school career with a bang.

The Tigers’ No. 1 singles player this season has enjoyed a stellar career in the H-DNL, including a memorable second-place finish in the North Coast Section double championships as a freshman, when she teamed with Aimee Reiner for the best-ever performance by an H-DNL duo in the postseason.

This year, Gutierrez DeArmond has opted to focus on the section doubles tournament again, and she will team with Kyra Alway at the championships in two weeks in the hope of becoming the first duo ever from the league to win a section crown.

The top two Arcata players sealed the league doubles championship with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Northcoast Prep’s Eva Devoe and Sara Chiarini on Friday, capping another incredibly successful season for Arcata tennis, which has dominated girls and boys league play in recent years.

And after closing out the regular season 10-0 and sweeping all three league doubles titles, this dynasty isn’t going anywhere and even looks to be getting better.

“Honestly, this is the best team I’ve ever had,” said head coach Sheldon Heath, who has been coaching the Tigers for 15 years. 

The Arcata girls will begin postseason play next Tuesday at the NCS team championships and will find out their seed and whether or not they get to host an opening match on Sunday evening.

The following week, the NCS singles and doubles championships are scheduled to be held at McKinleyville High School, weather permitting, and will feature Gutierrez DeArmond and Alway as the league’s representatives in doubles play, along with Northeast Prep’s Emma Bazemore in singles play.

Bazemore recently defeated Arcata’s Iris Beamer 6-0, 6-3 for the H-DNL No. 1 singles championship.

Arcata’s Astreya McKnight and Jasmine McKnight also won this year’s No. 2 doubles championship, defeating Eureka’s Kylee Waldvogel and Ninel Perez-Finn, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, in the final.

Arcata secured the league doubles sweep with a victory in the No. 3 decider, with Jenna Renteria and Kiera Tatro rallying to defeat Eureka’s Evelynn Snow and Rebeka Hang, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

“We have an incredibly deep team,” Heath said. “I would say any one of my players one through six would be No. 1 on any other team besides Northcoast Prep.”

Submitted photo – Kyra Alway serves with Keona Gutierrez DeArmond at the net.

But that’s not what has impressed the coach the most about this group.

“Every single one of them supports each other,” he said. “They cheer for each other and all got along.”

In addition to the success of Gutierrez DeArmond and Alway, the fast-improving Beamer also enjoyed a huge sophomore season.

“Her trajectory is amazing and she’s going to carry the torch for us next year,” Heath said.

The bad news for the rest of the league is that the majority of the Arcata players are not yet seniors and they could be even better next year.

Whether that will be enough to get them a victory in the section team championships this year remains to be seen, but if they do they would become the first H-DNL girls team to ever do so, following in the footsteps of the Arcata boys team, which posted an historic first-ever NCS team win at their tournament this past spring.

Bazemore, meanwhile, will be hoping to make some NCS history of her own when she plays at the section singles tournament.

And Heath believes she has the tools to make some noise.

“Emma’s incredibly consistent,” he said of the Northcoast Prep junior. “And she’s mentally tough. She’s a gamer.”

Her younger sister Lily Bazemore, a freshman, also enjoyed a big season and took home the No. 2 singles title at the H-DNL championships, defeating Arcata’s Abigail Issa, 6-0, 6-1, in the decider.

“She has an all-around game,” the Arcata coach said of the talented freshman. “She’s got every shot in the book.”

At No. 3 singles, meanwhile, Arcata’s Kloee Donnelly defeated Northcoast Prep’s Eva Devoe, 7-6(7), 6-0, in the championship, while at No. 4 singles, it was Arcata’s Meta Nave who defeated Northcoast Prep’s Julia Davis, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

The Fortuna Huskies also took home a pair of league titles.

At No. 5 singles, Zoë Myers defeated  Arcata’s Jenna Renteria, 7-6(6), 7-5, for the title, while at No. 6 it was Leslie Castillo who got the better of St. Bernard’s Victoria Heiser by a score of 7-5, 6-2.

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