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Junior displays tennis talent

Many view the No. 1 on a tennis team as the paramount member, the leader who pilots her peers to victory. Girls’ tennis coach George Freeman, however, believes the backbone of the team lies not within the No. 1, but the No. 2, who maintains equal importance and effectiveness of her teammate.

?The girl just below the top player has to have a great competitive attitude, because they are playing in a strategic point on the ladder,? Freeman said. ?By that I mean a school?s No. 2 girl is just as good as No. 1. So she has to have as much talent and ability as the top girl.?

Brittany Shaffer’s tennis career began in the third grade, while attending a sport camp over the summer. She played competitively in junior high and prior to this season, Shaffer averaged five hours of practice per day, with individual play and group lessons led by local tennis instructor, Fabian Grassini.

Shaffer began her ascension to the top in the eighth grade, where she played as the No. 2 on the junior high team. She then snatched No. 8 on the Varsity ladder her freshman year, being a part of the Valley Championship-winning team.

?Not many tennis players have her control and patience,? Kara Linkowski, ’08, said. ?Our rallies seem to go on forever when we play challenge matches. I know next year she will be able to lead the team successfully.?

Due to their top two spots on the ladder, Linkowski and Shaffer play as the No. 1 doubles team. Although they never played together before, they remain confident in their ability to work as a team and their relationship that continues off the court.

?This year, Kara and I have gotten really close,? Shaffer said, ?I can talk to her about anything. I?m going to miss her so much when she?s gone. We?re great in doubles; we kind of have the same style and know where the other person is going and what they?re going to do. Our communication is great even when we?re not talking.?

Last year, Shaffer placed first for singles in the WSL individual tournament; this year she placed second under Linkowski and both will head to Bakersfield to continue in individual Valley playoffs. She credits her success to Freeman and her parents.

?Freeman is the type of person, that if I had a boyfriend he would have to talk to him,? Shaffer said. ?If I have something on my mind, he is someone I can go talk to.”

Freeman has coached tennis on campus for 18 years and believes Shaffer to be one of the most consistent players he has coached. He remains confident in her potential.

“My goal for Brittany this year is for her to become the best tennis player she can be,” Freeman said. “If she wanted to, she could play tennis at a college level.”

Shaffer not only plays tennis competitively, but recreationally as well. Through the sport, she enjoys reconnecting with her dad, who lives in Orange County.

“It is a rush when I go to visit my dad,” Shaffer said. “I get butterflies right before I see him. When I first started playing tennis with him it was actually a challenge, but now that I play more than he does I can beat him.”

Shaffer spends most of her time in Fresno, living with her mom, and only sees her dad for holidays or over the summer. When she visits him, the one thing they love to do together is play tennis.

“My dad and I have a great relationship,” Shaffer said. “When I have to leave him and come back home, it is the worst feeling in the world. When I was younger I used to cry when I had to say goodbye, but as I have gotten older I can contain myself until he leaves.”

Shaffer hopes to attend University of California Irvine and play tennis if her schedule allows. Although she wanted to be a lawyer for several years, she recently found interest in psychology and hopes to undertake photography in her spare time.

?I want to have a social life after college and help people,” Shaffer said. “Junior high was tough for me so I?d like to help teenagers get through those years. I?ll play tennis in college if I can, though. If I?m good enough and my schedule allows me, I want to go as far as I can go with tennis.”

The girls’ team remains 14-2 overall and 10-0 in the West Sierra League; CIF Division V team playoffs will continue play in the second round as FC battles Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo on Oct. 30.

?I love the sport,? Shaffer said. ?I like the team aspect and like being on a small team is like family and you get to know people you usually do not hang out with. I hate practices but love matches, going to dinner with the team and celebrating with the team over our wins.?

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