“The e-mail sounded promising, but Steve Worthington didn’t want to get his hopes elevated too high.
The Rio Mesa High girls’ tennis coach decided to wait and see [CHI AYP Participant] Isabella Xiong in person before rushing to judgment.
Xiong is a foreign-exchange student from China who told school officials she was interested in playing tennis.
The e-mail noted she had competed in national-level tournaments and spent five weeks at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.
During Rio Mesa’s first practice, Worthington was pleasantly surprised to discover nearly every word of the e-mail was true.
“The girl is nails,” Worthington said. “She is the real deal and really stands out. That is one of the great things about tennis â€” it has a universal language.”
Xiong’s presence makes an already-strong Rio Mesa team even stronger.
The Spartans have reached the CIF-Southern Section Division IV semifinals in two of the last three years, and hope to finally break through to the final this season.
Along with Xiong’s arrival, Rio Mesa will be boosted by the return of Jessica Vizents.
The senior missed last season while recovering from an ankle injury.
Xiong, Vizents, Sonia Landeros and Sarah Zook provide Rio Mesa with four capable singles players to fill three spots.
“It is one of those very nice headaches to have,” Worthington said. “We are going to try to keep everybody happy, but at some point in time something is going to have to happen. But they know the drill. They can do the math. Four doesn’t go into three.”
Rio Mesa is the runaway favorite in the Pacific View League with Oxnard positioned for second place behind the Hedberg sisters â€” Moira and Mali.”
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