Valencia High's Girls Tennis
A Dynasty in the Making?
December, 2007 - Issue #38
Annie Kellogg is building something special at Valencia High School, but it's not what you think.

You could argue that she's building a girls tennis dynasty. History would certainly back you up. The Vikings have captured six consecutive Foothill League team championships.

And her team's success has extended beyond the Santa Clarita Valley. The Valencia girls tennis team appeared in back-to-back CIF-Southern Section Division III finals in 2005 and 2006 - a remarkable feat for a public school in the arena of high school tennis.

This year, the Vikings launched into the playoffs with a 18-0 record and a No. 2 ranking in the season-ending CIF-SS Division III poll. If they are still playing by the time this issue lands in your mailbox, they will have made another deep playoff run - the CIF finals take place on November 18.

They may even be section champions.

Still, championship programs and SCV dynasties are not what Kellogg is building at Valencia High. They are the welcome bi-products of something bigger - something more profound and more far reaching.

Kellogg is building a family.

"The girls on this team are good friends," she says. "They enjoy being together. I think we're all pretty close. We watch out for each other. My goal is that the girls truly learn to care about each other. When that happens, it can take your game to another level. I've seen it happen."

So has Valencia's opposition. The Vikings have dominated the Foothill League to perfection. They haven't lost to a league opponent since 2003. By all definitions, they have become a Santa Clarita dynasty.

Kellogg isn't alone in her belief that this dynasty stems from more than talent.

"I think our success comes from how much we care about each other," echoes Valencia senior Chloe Kwock. "We're really like sisters, and that connection makes us stronger. We try to win for each other."

This year's batch of seniors embodies Kellogg's commitment to a family atmosphere, and it's no coincidence they have never tasted a league defeat. But they don't want the credit.

"Coach Kellogg really pushes team bonding," says senior team co-captain Lehren MacKay. "And each year the seniors have done a great job of keeping that up. We're just trying to follow their example. It's something the seniors teach the freshmen."

According to MacKay, humility is another powerful teacher of Valencia's team concept.

"As freshmen, we might come on the team and be cocky. But you get a reality check here," she says. "You might be No. 1 on some other team, but here you're on the bench. This team has a way of bringing players down to earth."

This year's team has enjoyed so much success, it's difficult to dub one player as more valuable than another. The contributions have come from everywhere.

Juniors Isabella Fraczek and Thalia Wilczynski recorded perfect league seasons in singles, as did Valencia's No. 1 doubles team of MacKay and Courtney Kaska.

Clarice Fraczek has flourished as Valencia's No. 3 singles player, while the team has soared on the contributions of players such as Kwock, Sydney Smith, Nina Hwang, Maxine David, Angela Chong, Alyssa Songveera, Shin Jae Kim and Emily Fraczek.

Many of those players shined at this year's individual Foothill League playoffs. But individual success isn't what the Vikings are after. Finishing second in Division III twice in a row has left the team hungry for a title.

Kwock, whom Kellogg credits with helping keep the team loose with her sense of humor, isn't shy about admitting it, either.
"We all want to win CIF so badly," she says.

So much so, in fact, that the words"CIF championship" were penned on the team bulletin board on the Viking's first day of practice.

"The girls told me they didn't want to schedule this year's team banquet until after the CIF finals," Kellogg says.

To win, Valencia will likely have to contend with Chadwick of Palos Verdes, the team that beat the Vikings in last year's finals. The Dolphins returned all of their starters and entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.

"Chadwick is doing really well," Kellogg says. "But we've beaten Mayfield (ranked No. 3) and La Canada (ranked No. 4), so we've proven we can beat the top teams."

Kellogg knows it will be tough, though.

"To make a deep playoff run, you've got to have depth. We have that," she says. "We have a shot at it, but our singles and our doubles would all have to have a great day."

Strategy will also play a role, and that favors Valencia. Kellogg, who admits she has a knack for it, studies opposing teams and then adjusts personnel to give her team an edge.

Does it make more sense to concede a singles match or two to load up on doubles? Can she borrow one of her best doubles players for singles and still win both?

Those are the kinds of questions Kellogg has to answer before every match. Choosing correctly can swing a match four to five sets in either direction. In high school tennis, winning 10 sets means winning the match.

"I like strategy," Kellogg admits. "But at the end of the day, if the other team has better horses, it's going to be tough."

Kellogg also knows how to manage the mental game. In a sport where even the slimmest crack in a player's confidence can make the difference, she knows how to push the right buttons.

"Coach Kellogg teaches us to stay positive," MacKay says. "She teaches us how to fight off being nervous. She teaches us how to bring up the positive energy."

Valencia's players all wear bracelets on the court. One side is black and the other is white. At Kellogg's behest, the Vikings wear those bracelets white-side-up.

"The white side stands for positive energy," MacKay says. "It's just one way to keep us focused on the right things during a match."

Kellogg has preached a positive attitude among her players for years. Last year she was able to demonstrate it in her own life after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"In a sport where even the slimmest crack in a player's confidence can make the difference, Valencia coach Annie Kellogg knows how to PUSH THE RIGHT BUTTONS."

Her treatment coincided with the playoffs, and she was not courtside for several of her team's matches - at least not physically. The players, though, rallied around her. Her battle became their battle cry.

"We became a lot stronger as a team because of that," MacKay says. "If she could go through that and stay positive, we could do anything. She made it to the finals and we lost, but it was so great to have her there. I know we played the best we could."

Says Kwock: "Coach is the heart of our team. If we didn't have her, we couldn't get as far as we're getting. She gives us a reason to win."

Those are lessons Kellogg hopes her players will take beyond their playing years. Work hard. Stay positive. Embrace adversity. Accept your teammates. She wants her players to know that as good as they may be as individuals, they are stronger as a team. They can only be as strong as their commitment to each other.

"The big thing in coaching is the relationships you make," Kellogg says. "As a coach, you get to see how the girls develop as human beings. Sports is like life. You have to deal with losses and disappointments. You have dreams and you need focus."

"I want to help guide the girls through that. I want to inspire them. That's what I love about coaching."

That's what her girls love about her.

"She doesn't just teach us about tennis," says MacKay. "She teaches us life."

She teaches family.
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