Among the 2019 version of the 2019 Yucaipa High School tennis team are a mixture of personalities that come from across the nation and across the planet. The formula has worked as the Thunderbirds have a 12-2 record and are 6-1 record thus far in Citrus Belt League and has assured itself of post season play.
“Everything is new about this team,” said coach Scott Salinas. “They have played much better than I expected.”
Salinas graduated all of its top starters from last year with the exception of three-year starter Lilly Roberson. The only other seniors on the team are doubles partners Brielle Lara and Sierra Dosey.
Juniors Anne Elise Hogue, a transfer from Gardendale, Ala. and foreign exchange student Anouk Von Keudell from Hamburg, Germany provide the team additional talent along with different geographical knowledge. Hogue already earned a starting role with doubles partner sophomore Jordyn Turner. Von Keudall, who is recovering from a wrist injury, has worked back as the first substitute.
“I think if Anouk (Von Keudell) keeps improving, she will help us in the playoffs,” said Salinas. But teammates say Von Keudall; age 16 contributes off the court as well. Lara said, “It’s interesting to learn about her culture and social norms which are not the same as ours. It’s a real eye opener.”
Lara will major in computer engineering next year at a yet to be decided college.
“It’s so exciting being here and trying to be like another culture,” explained Von Keudall. “They start teaching us English in the first grade. Everyone speaks English in Germany so coming here there was no language problem. Learning languages is important in Germany.” She noted a difference in that Hamburg has a population of about two million and Yucaipa around 55,000. Von Keudall told that German high schools don't offer sports; instead play their form of club tennis. “High school in Germany is a place just for learning but I’ve learned much more about tennis here.”
Von Keudall returns home after her one-year foreign exchange.
The more experienced Lilly Roberson and Brielle Lara agree with their coach that Von Keudall is a good addition to the team. Salinas thinks she is competing well but has not reached her potential. Roberson says Von Keudall has been winning “more and more.”
Unlike Von Keudall, Anne Elise Hogue is making a permanent transition but from a smaller American town of 15,000 to the larger Yucaipa. Hogue said the transfer to Yucaipa was hard at first, yet needed after her father was hired as Dean of Pharmacy School, Loma Linda University. “There is more to do here and the beach is close,” said Hogue.
While some of her teammates are just learning about the YHS tennis program, Lilly Roberson has almost seen it all. As a JV singles player her freshman year, Roberson was part of the tennis program’s undefeated CBL championship season. She encourages her younger teammates to be patient because things get better as a senior since you can finally use what you have learned.
“It’s now my last season and I want to go out with a bang.”
Roberson is getting a jump start to her plans of becoming an elementary school teacher since she is a teacher’s assistant for her coach’s vocational transitional life skills class. She also volunteers as part of the school’s Best Buddies Program, geared for those with developmental disabilities.