KMC quartet looking to hold onto titles
Stars and Stripes September 5, 2023
The top DODEA European tennis players are aware of the targets on their backs heading into the 2023 campaign.
Ramstein’s Tristan Chandler is the two-time defending boys individual champion – the first of which when he was a member of crosstown rival Kaiserslautern.
The Raiders’ Stella Schmitz, meanwhile, has two titles under her belt – a doubles title in 2021 and an individual last fall. She also is the younger sister of Aiva, who won three individual crowns at Kaiserslautern and is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota.
So, Stella Schmitz understands all about high expectations.
“You do have that pressure,” the junior Raider said. “You want to do as well as you did the previous years, and I feel like everyone has a standard and you got to match it.”
Schmitz went undefeated last season en route to the title, dropping just three games all season.
Chandler, meanwhile, faced a tough matchup in last year’s final against Marymount’s Leonardo Proietti, outlasting his opponent 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Chandler trailed 3-2 in the final set before rattling off the final four games to win the match.
The Royal junior anticipates getting back to the top again.
“It’s the same thing every year,” Chandler said. “I feel like I’m going to go into this year really confident, prepared and hopefully win again.”
Completing the juggernaut junior class in the Kaiserslautern Military Community are Raiders doubles duo Alisa Dietzel and Abby Hover, who won the girls title last year. It was Hover’s second, after she won her freshman campaign with Schmitz.
“I love that our doubles team also are fellow juniors,” Schmitz said. “We have a really good connection, and I love practicing with them and being in their presence.”
Here’s a look at the rest of the tennis scene in Europe, based off coaches’ responses:
The Dragons’ top seed, Rachana Dacumos, leads a girls team that brings back nearly everyone. She qualified for the European tournament last year as a doubles player.
Dacumos is joined by second seed Maggie May, third seed Aila Zetner, fourth seed Ana Alejandro Diez, fifth seed Gabriella Pantoja and sixth seed Cheyenne Worley as returners. Seventh seed Noelle Steele is new to the squad.
Freshman Andrew Barbee is stepping into the No.1 boys seed, while returners Roscoe Brady and Harvey Norris are the second and third seeds. Other newcomers are Luis Payares (fourth seed), Logan Ballew (fifth), Jacob Haines (sixth) and Isaac Stoker (seventh).
The Lions bring back four players, though none qualified for the European championships. Those four include Max Berlin, Christopher Dietrich, Henry Main and Katura McDowell.
New to the team are Diana Fudge, Madelyne Hatfield, Sage Kallestad, Amelia McRory, Esteban Milan and Allison Snowdon.
Only individuals have represented the Cougars as independents in recent seasons.
That’s no longer the case. Ansbach meets the requirements to have a team.
The Cougars are led by two-time European qualifier Meredith Maxwell, who will try to return to Wiesbaden for her junior season. Fellow junior Bobby Lovallo returns after lettering last year.
The team looks to build off a solid season last fall, with a girls doubles pair going 2-2 at the European championships.
That duo, senior Abigail Halttunen and junior Riley Thomas, are back, as is junior Almina Kocabas, who went undefeated during the regular season. Joining them are sophomore Adrianne Chezik and junior Gabrielle Rohrer.
Sophomores Kai Zinn and Elham Aziri round out the returning Brigands.
New to the squad are junior transfer Juliette Burgos and freshmen Esme Halttunen, Claire Kulis, Hudson Kinard and Sebastian Burgos.
The Raiders will look to continue their dominance on the girls side, having won every girls singles title since 2018 and taking the last two doubles crowns.
Joining defending champions Schmitz, Dietzel and Hover is Gianna Terry.
The boys squad was decimated by graduation, as Kaiserslautern lost 11 across boys and girls. Jace Martin, who was a member of the European-qualifying doubles team, and Isaac Holly are back, while freshman Bryan Oh will step into the top singles position.
The Lancers are heading into 2023 with high hopes.
Freshman Jonathan Soito transferred in from South Carolina and jumped straight into the No. 1 spot. Coach Kyle Siftar said Soito has shown consistency and will be a force on the court.
Senior Calvin Moncada returns and will be the boys No. 2.
For the girls, returner Elisabeth Petrich is the team’s top seed, while Maddison Beedham will be second.
The Wildcats will have numerous players step into new roles after losing some top players to graduation.
Liliana Stutzman enters her junior year with some European tournament experience, having placed fourth in the doubles bracket. Also back are seniors Andrea Mayounga and Aleczandria Rodriguez, who have played doubles for two years, and junior Erion Lord, who was the boys second seed behind last year’s bronze medalist in the European tournament, Sam Stutzman.
New to the team are freshmen Kai Baraniak, Tavi Shah and John McGrath.
The Royal boys will be looking for deep runs from Chandler and their top doubles pair, Eric and Sean Kim. The senior brothers took third place at the European tournament in 2022.
The girls team, meanwhile, has seen much turnover and will be looking to build throughout the season, according to coach Alfredo Rios.
The school is fielding a team for the third straight year after a 20-year hiatus, and the program continues to grow.
Across the middle and high schools, the Admirals are at least 14 strong, which coach Zachary Zilinski said is a record.
Charlize Caro went 19-6 last fall en route to a fourth-place performance in the European singles tournament. The junior ace also was a finalist in the DODEA South championships as a freshman.
She will lead a Jaguar team hoping to get a few more European qualifiers. Katie Balbo is back after pairing with Caro in doubles and being the second seed last fall, while Meghan Nguyen and Saskia Mettle were the third and fourth seeds.
Camryn Burcham and Jasmine Estosta are newcomers.
For the boys, Kennan Hager and Chase Miller return after being the top two singles seeds and the top doubles team. They are joined by Max Mercado, a transfer from Virginia, and Joseph Eck.
The Sentinels had more boys try out for the team than in the last eight years, and despite the youth and inexperience, coach Nate Goolsby sees it as one of the best crops of athletes during his time.
Senior Owen Watts transferred from stateside and likely will step into the top seed, while brothers Troy (junior) and Caleb (freshman) Truscott are developing talents.
The No. 1 girls doubles team of juniors Natalie Moran and Sandrine Bennett is a contender to qualify for the European tournament.
The Panthers can boast of returning one-half of the European boys doubles champions with Zachary Call, who will step into the No. 1 singles seed this season.
Another boy returner is Juan Perez.
On the girls side, Isabelle Williams, who won once in the 2022 European tournament, will be the top singles player. She is joined by fellow veteran Gracey Basgall.
The Spartans bring back several European qualifiers, beginning with girls doubles players Chiara D’Arrigo and Mariana Torrente de la Pisa. The junior and sophomore placed fifth last year.
Also finishing fifth in 2022 was boys singles player Alejandro Cuesta. The junior went 5-2 last season.
Sophomore Maks Mijatov, senior Radu Grosu and sophomore Ergina Boutzi have experience as well.
New to the team are Andrea Elena Marcos Gomez, Carla Bernal and Giulia Vitiello.
The Cougars enjoyed much success last season, qualifying a singles player and having boys and girls doubles teams place third in their respective competitions.
All five of those athletes are back. For the boys, Sam Grady and Andrew Reed took home a bronze from the European championships after going in as the fifth seed. Also back are Jacob McGovern, Isaac Leon, Arthur Shore, Sam Hace and Christian Frazee.
For the girls, singles-qualifier Delia Gordon went 2-2 at the European tournament, while Addie Wilson and Annika Svenson made the podium with a third-place finish. Joining them are Maya McLeod, Sarah McGovern, Ava Parker, Lilla Morris, Emma Al-Awaj and Lily Grady.
New this year are Ben Irwin, Matt Kaluzny and Kiera Mukai.
The Falcons have a good mix of returners and newcomers.
Junior Cameron Holloway advanced to the European championships last year and will look to do the same this campaign. Returning with him are seniors Ryen Arguello and Ilianna Ramirez, juniors Zoe Crawford (a European qualifier in 2021), Aundrea Lloyd and Luz Pasillas, and sophomore Steven Harker.
Vilseck has 13 newcomers, including juniors Brianna Aguliar and Deshun Thomson.