Thanksgiving is always a great opportunity to look back at the year, count blessings and reflect on what you’re thankful for.
Five members of the Silverado girls tennis team thought long about what they are grateful for this year as they prepared for the CIF-Southern Section Individual Sectionals.
Mailin Müller, Silverado’s top singles player, has plenty to be thankful for after spending this semester away from her family.
Müller is a 16-year-old foreign exchange student from Braunschweig, Germany, attending Silverado for the first semester of her senior year.
Müller will return home after Christmas, getting a chance to experience Thanksgiving for the first time in her life.
She seems excited about that.
“I’m so thankful for my parents, making it possible to come out here and getting to know a new great family,” Müller said. “I’m very thankful that I got a chance to meet really great people and make many new friendships.”
Many of those new friendships are among the tennis team at Silverado.
Müller, who began playing tennis 10 years ago, stumbled across the team. She emailed Silverado coach Bill Mocharnuk and asked to hit some balls with the team.
The rest is history.
“I told her to come out on that following Monday,” Mocharnuk said. “I hit three balls to her and went ‘Oh my God. This girl knows how to play.’ Top spin, deep, both sides. I looked at her serve. Spin serves, flat serves. She’s the real deal. She is so nice, so sweet, but she’s a killer on the court.”
Back in Braunschweig, Müller plays for a club team, consisting of four girls. Each girl on the team plays singles and doubles.
With all her experience over the last decade, Müller has discovered she likes playing as a singles player more than doubles.
“Doubles is fun, but I’m better at singles,” Müller said. “I just think that I am better when I am on the court alone. I can concentrate better knowing I’m in control of everything.”
Müller didn’t lose a match during the regular season as she went 31-0, leading the Hawks to the league title.
At the DSL Finals, Müller beat Academy for Academic Excellence’s Alyssa Mejia with scores of 6-3 and 6-2 in the championship match.
“Mailin is an automatic three points. I knew having her in the lineup this season that I was already up 3-0 in any match,” Mocharnuk said.
Müller’s winning ways continued as she dominated during Silverado’s run to the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 semifinals.
In the first round on Nov. 1, Müller swept with three bagels as the Hawks beat Montclair 12-6. She followed that up with another sweep (6-1, 6-0, 6-2) in a 14-4 victory over Twentynine Palms.
That was the first time she lost a game this season.
“I feel that those games that I lost, brought me more forward than the games I won,” Müller said.
In a 13-5 victory over Estancia in the quarterfinals, Müller swept with scores of 6-1, 6-1, 6-0.
Silverado’s run ended in the semifinals, a 10-8 loss to Woodcrest Christian. Müller swept with two bagels (6-4, 6-0, 6-0) in that season-ending loss on Nov. 6.
But that didn’t quite mean the end of the season for Müller and a pair of doubles teammates.
The CIF-Southern Section Individual Sectionals began on Nov. 20 at five different host sites.
The round of 32 and 16, is on Nov. 29 and will be held at Biszantz Family Tennis Center, in Claremont. The semifinals and finals will also be held there on Nov. 30.
The Mojave River League is represented in singles action by Hesperia’s first-ever two-time Mojave River League singles champion, Jasmine Sheets and also Apple Valley’s Simran Ahluwalia. In doubles action, the MRL is represented by Apple Valley’s Samantha Most and Vishwa Patel, and also Oak Hills’ Hayley Lazo and Valerie Torres.
So what makes a great doubles team?
You have to get along, first and foremost.
If there is no synergy between partners, there is bound to be trouble, both of the Silverado doubles teams agreed.
With a solid relationship, comes communication, Barajas said.
She and Valadez always make sure to talk to each other on the court. There’s also one more aspect that’s worked for them.
“You can’t be selfish on the court,” said Valadez. “You’ve always gotta be focused, make sure you’re having fun but remain focused.”
Then comes the styles of play.
A solid doubles team has a setter and a spiker.
Barajas is the hammer, and Valadez is the setter. Notes sets up McGowan’s aggressive approach.
“You’ve got to be able to work together and know your role on the court,” McGowan said. “You have to make sure you’re working together as one.
To reach the sectionals, Barajas and Valadez had to beat McGowan and Notes at the Desert Sky League Finals.
It wasn’t easy.
Notes and McGowan won the first set 4-6, and then Barajas and Valadez won the next two with scores of 6-2 and 10-8.
“That was fun to watch,” Mocharnuk said. “These are two of the greatest doubles teams I’ve ever had in my time here. They are so competitive. These are girls that don’t like to lose. Their will to win and desire to just get better is something else.”
Müller’s time with the team is an experience she will cherish for a lifetime, including the friendships made along the way.
Reflecting on the team atmosphere, it’s something she will miss back home, where things are a bit more serious.
“My team back home is more quiet and very concentrated,” Müller said. “Here, everyone is always cheering and having so much fun. I like the change. Favorite part of this team is that everyone is very close, very supportive, and not too serious. I’m thankful I got to have fun playing tennis here.”
As they prepared for the individual sectionals, a week before Thanksgiving, Barajas and Valadez, as did McGowan and Notes, shared what they were thankful for reflecting on a memorable season.
Here’s what each had to say.
Barajas — “I’m thankful for my coaches, I wouldn’t be here without them. Also, my parents, because also without them, I wouldn’t be here. My coaches have shown me a lot this year, and I’ve really progressed over the years in working to our No. 1 position. I’m thankful for my team. If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be motivation.”
Valadez — “Our coaches have taught me how to play. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for all my friends and my entire team for how hard they worked all season long. We made sure we did our jobs and did our best to represent Silverado tennis.”
McGowan — “I’m thankful for the opportunities that tennis has brought me so far, and the opportunities I will continue to get because of tennis.”
Notes — “This season has been my greatest, and I’m thankful for my coaches and teammates.”
Daily Press reporter Jose Quintero may be reached at 760-951-6274 or JQuintero@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @J0seQuintero, and on Instagram at @VVDailyPress_Sports.
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: After a fun and memorable tennis season, Silverado players are thankful