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Cibola's Ashreetha Murugesan wins big in debut
The next big thing in Yuma prep girls tennis may have made her debut on Thursday at Gila Ridge, as Ashreetha Murugesan helped lift Cibola (2-0) to a commanding 8-1 victory over the Hawks.
Murugesan, a 15-year-old sophomore, attends local charter school Carpe Diem but was granted eligibility to play at Cibola this year. Murugesan was originally expected to sit out the first three matches of the season, but was able to forgo the 10-day penalty since she didn't transfer from another school.
For her first act, Murugesan and her powerful serve cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory in the No. 2 singles match against Gila Ridge's Brianna Alvarez. From the reactions of her teammates, opponents and both coaches, it was evident Murugesan's talent didn't go unnoticed.
“Obviously, she has an overall game,” Cibola coach Cam Cong said. “But, like I said, most of the girls aren't used to something at that speed. If you noticed, her opponent was 10 feet behind the baseline taking the serve.”
Alvarez, who is in her fourth year as a varsity tennis player, said she could see Murugesan making a deep run into the postseason. Cong said he put Murugesan at the No. 2 to ease her into the competition, but Murugesan will likely be the school's No. 1 from here on out.
“That's big girl tennis,” Gila Ridge coach Beth Osowski said. “That's not just, ‘This is fun, let's look cute.' That's someone who's ready to get down and dirty and really play tennis and I like that.”
Still, the soft-spoken Murugesan sounded humble after her first high school match.
“I'm really fortunate,” she said. “At least they let me play, that's really nice of them. It was fun, a lot of fun.”
In her doubles debut, Murugesan and Amrutha Doniparthi teamed up to defeat Meghan Johnson and Tiffany Laughlin, 8-4. Johnson was her team's lone victor, defeating Vianka Villa 6-0, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles match that featured several long rallies.
“It's definitely bittersweet,” Johnson said. “I'm happy I won, but I wish the rest of the team would have won, too.”
It was something of a wake up call for Gila Ridge (1-1), who entered the match 1-0 after defeating Yuma High, 7-2, on Tuesday.
“Now they have that experience of facing a tough opponent,” Osowski said. “How are they going to respond to that — get back and work at practice so next time they can face the challenge and have a chance to beat them.”