The St. Joseph Knights girls tennis team is off to a strong start to its 2017 season.

The Knights improved to 2-0 after their 15-3 non-league victory Thursday over city rival Santa Maria (1-1) at the Minami Center courts — Santa Maria’s home courts.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for St. Joseph.

Shortly after the Knights’ No. 1 singles player Shianne Gooley defeated Santa Maria No. 1 Karyme Calderon 6-4 in the match’s opening set, St. Joseph coach Ray Cavazos had to replace his star with Janelle Brickey.

“Shianne plays a really good game, she has lots of talent,” said Cavazos. “But she has a minor injury and I didn’t want to take the chance on making it worse so I sat her down. I think she’ll be fine when we begin (PAC 8) league play next week.”

So Brickey came on in relief and immediately got involved in the most compelling set of the day.

Brickey battled Santa Maria’s No. 2 singles player Gizelle Mincitar through 10 tough games.

With the set tied 5-all, Mincitar broke Brickey’s serve then closed out the set at 7-5.

“Gizelle had a really great set, she really pushed it. She did that a couple times for us last year when she played JV,” said Santa Maria coach Julianne Dolan. “It’s always good to get at least a couple sets win. This will definitely feed our competitive spirit.”

The Saints’ Jesse Tell picked up Santa Maria’s second point with a 6-1 set against Brickey.

Santa Maria’s No. 1 doubles team, Jackie Solano and Leslie Carranza, earned the Saints’ other point.

At No. 2 singles, St. Joseph’s Julie Galloway swept her three sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

The Knights’ No. 3 singles player Katelyn Haskell also went 3-0 with 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 scores.

Sisters Eva and Emilia Datuin, at No. 1 doubles, and the Knights No. 2 doubles tandem of Katie Adams and Brandi Shin swept their sets with No. 3 Gina Rigali and Gowri Sunitha winning two of three.

“Our sisters — Eva and Emilia — have been playing great. They have a great chemistry going between them. I think being sisters really helps,” said Cavasos. “And Katelyn Haskell has been very consistent so far this year. She’s really on her game.”

The Saints opened their season Tuesday with a 10-8 victory over Pioneer Valley.

“That got us off to a good start,” said Dolan. “We were hoping for better results today but we’re in a rebuilding year. Still, there weren’t many 6-0 sets. Our girls picked up some points along the way. I really like the way our No. 3 doubles team played. We just called up Noelia Ayuso and Jessica Gil from our junior varsity team. This was their first varsity match and they did a really good job.”

Both coaches paced the sideline throughout the match, keeping a watchful eye on their players.

“You basically keep going back and forth, trying to see what everyone is doing,” said Dolan. “We’re allowed to go out on the courts to coach during changeovers but other than that, it’s on the girls to manage their games.

“But today was a learning experience. It’s the beginning of the season and this helps the girls get into the proper mindset. There were a lot of positives for us today. We have a lot of girls who are new to varsity tennis so this was a good experience for them. The more matches you play, the more you understand yourself  understand your game. So there’s a lot we can learn from today  the girls know what they did well and what they have to do to take their next steps to improve.”

St. Joseph opened its season with a victory over Nipomo on Monday.

“It’s nice to have the preseason to build some confidence. We’re improving but next week we have to jump right into league play,” said Cavasos. “We open league play next Tuesday against Paso Robles on our courts. That’s going to be a good test for us to see where we stand in the league.”

Santa Maria has one more non-league match next Tuesday at Cambria’s Coast Union before kicking off Los Padres League play next Thursday against Cabrillo back at the Minami Center.

Girls Volleyball

Righetti 3, Cabrillo 0

The Warriors improved to 3-0 on the season with a straight set, non-league victory at Cabrillo.

Righetti's Zane Sheckherd led the 25-15, 25-15, 25-15 sweep with eight kills.

Kendall Bagby added five kills and five aces.

Also nailing five aces apiece for the Warriors were Jenna Wuethrich and Jahnine Ricafrente.

Righetti continues its preseason Tuesday at Santa Ynez.

Cabrillo is also back in action Tuesday at Atascadero.

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Senior Sports Reporter