Wallenberg delivers a 1-2 punch

Salomon, Gardinier breeze through semifinals

Jennifer Salomon and Simone Gardinier may be relative newcomers to the Academic Athletic Association’s big stage, but the two Wallenberg tennis players looked anything but nervous Wednesday afternoon at Golden Gate Park.

The two sophomores are the Bulldogs’ top two singles players, and both won their matches 6-0, 6-0 to lead second-seeded Wallenberg to a 7-0 sweep of Balboa in the league semifinals.

Wallenberg advances to play 16-time defending champion Lowell (a 7-0 semifinal winner over Lincoln) Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Golden Gate Park for the AAA title.

“It’s pretty awesome to be the No. 1 player [as a sophomore],” Salomon said. “But I don’t take it as a pressure position. I enjoy it.”

Salomon flashed a dominant serve, an excellent return game and the aggressiveness to get to the net and put points away early in defeating the Buccaneers’ Tiffany Lam in just over 40 minutes. She has been playing tennis since she was seven-years-old and the sport seems to be in her blood — older sister Janice is a former No. 1 singles player at UC Davis.

“[Jennifer] is such a confident player,” Gardinier said. “And she always has a great attitude on the court.”

Gardinier didn’t appear to lack assurance herself, smiling her way through her win over Sarah Lui. She showed the speed to get to short balls by the net and played several short angle shots to perfection.

“She really chooses her shots wisely,” said Salomon of her fellow sophomore. “She uses great strategy.”

Other winners for Wallenberg included singles players Selina Tam and Lina Tran, and doubles teams Fanny Ko and Minh Li, Victoria Chen and Susan Kuoch, and Ellen Mubuke and Maria Bachellino.

Despite the loss, this was a great season for Balboa.

The Buccaneers went 4-3 during the regular season and reached the playoffs for the first time in recent memory, according to coach Clint Gerona.

Now Wallenberg will take on Lowell, a team that went undefeated during the regular season and lost just one individual match in seven team matches.

“I think we can win — we’ve been improving all year,”

Gardinier said. “And we want to face Lowell because we want the chance to beat the best.”

The Cardinals received wins from singles players Michelle Lam, Marianna Tischenko, Theresa Nguyen and Kira Osta and doubles teams Monica Lam and Jennifer Tsong, Jenn Hom and Sally Ness, and Aja Estares and Minnie Wong in its win over Lincoln.

“We have a lot of depth this year,” Lowell coach Terence Doherty said. “And our doubles players are really experienced, and that counts for a lot.”

melliser@examiner.com

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