The girls varsity tennis team is off to a great start with an 8-1 record, including 3-0 in Tri-Valley League play. The team is on a good path to improve on last season’s effort, which included a share of the Tri-Valley League title and a second round loss in the CIF playoffs.
"I think we'll have a good chance in our division, but we got to win league first," said Bruce Young, the team's head coach. "That's what we're focused on right now. We had very good nonleague results. Sometimes, you want to play a few matches that you might lose so you don't feel invincible."
A big reason for the Sharks' success so far this season is freshman Ilana Oleynik, a highly ranked junior player who is enrolled in Laurel Springs' home schooling program, but decided to join the Malibu team and plays No. 1 singles.
"It's been great so far," said Oleynik, who at age 14 plays mostly in the 16s age division in the USTA, where she holds a Top 50 ranking in Southern California. "Everyone's really nice and I like the whole point of traveling to other schools and getting to play a set against three different people. I think we can do very well because we have three strong singles players and pretty good doubles."
Bolstering the doubles lineup is senior Maddie Clarfield, who is headed to the University of Michigan on a soccer scholarship. She opted to join the tennis team two weeks before the season started so she could play doubles with her younger sister Elena.
"I was the goalie when we beat Desert Christian to win the CIF soccer title my sophomore year," Clarfield said. "I've been playing tennis since I was young. It's good cross training for soccer and I made the commitment to do it."
Elena, a sophomore, is equally excited to be playing with her older sibling.
"I played soccer last year too, but decided to take a year off," said Elena, who also plans to swim for the Sharks in the spring. "It's a lot of fun. We get along really well and we know each other's games like we know our own."
The Sharks' No. 1 doubles team is the sophomore tandem of Raven Odian and Rachel Purewal, who were partners at No. 3 last year.
"We worked hard with our private coach [Tim Barry] in the offseason to be No. 1," Purewal said. "It's definitely more pressure because we're expected to win now, but I like that."
Odian said the secret to their success is their conflicting styles of play.
"We're opposite players in terms of our strengths and weaknesses, but we complement each other great," said Odian, who has compiled a 7-2 record in league with Purewal this season. "I like to stay back and set her up at the net."
Rounding out the varsity are seniors Rebecca O'Mara and Madison Felman, juniors Tallulah Daly, Emma Sittig and Samantha Stafford and freshman Davis Faherty.
The junior varsity roster consists of Sammy Blackwell, Kelsey Borenzweig, Ariana Brock, Soraya Emran, Mia Green, Nina Green, Sarah Larson, Jayron Lashgari, Claire Thomsen, Grace Van Dirn, Nikita Weber, Rachel Weinberg and Camille Wormser.
"We're definitely trying to be one of the two teams in the [CIF] finals at least," Elena Clarfield said. "So we're all hoping we can do it."
Malibu will look to continue its fast start when it plays league rival La Reina today at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Tennis Club in Westlake Village.