April 13, 2005 - Tennis, school and a social life. For some high school students, juggling all three can become quite cumbersome.
For others, such as BreAnn Cheung of Catalina Foothills High School, hard work and success go hand in hand.
Catalina Foothills' girls tennis team will need a balanced attack this season if it is to contend once again for the Class 4A state championship. The winner of the past five state titles, Catalina Foothills has emerged as one of the premier tennis programs in Arizona, thanks largely in part to the play of the senior, Cheung.
"My parents always emphasized to keep it balanced," said Cheung, whose tennis exploits are surpassed only by her 3.85 grade point average in the classroom.
On the court, the Falcons' No.1 singles player is the model her teammates look to for strength and support.
"She's very patient and not easily flustered," said Foothills head coach Kristie Stevens. "If she's frustrated, you're not going to see it."
Stevens knows a thing or two about tennis on the high school level. The coach has headed the program since 1992, with her teams finishing within the top three in state nine of those 13 years.
Cheung has been steadily climbing in the team's ranks, starting in the sixth spot as a freshman and working her way up to No. 1 this year.
Guiding the Falcons to a sixth straight state title won't be as easy as in years past, however. Of the 20 girls on this season's squad, only four of them are seniors. Behind seniors Cheung and Tara Raghavan, those starting in the team's three through six spots are sophomores.
The Falcons will enter its final game of the regular season on March 14 at Douglas with an unblemished record in the Sonoran Region. The highlight of the season to date may have come March 15, when the Falcons defeated Class 5A Salpointe on the road.
An added benefit in the quest for six in a row for the Foothills girls is the luxury that this year's state tournament will be hosted by the Tucson Racquet Club, 4001 N. Country Club Road, starting April 25.
Tucson has dominated girls tennis the past two seasons. Finishing runner-up to the Falcons in 2003 and 2004 were the girls of Ironwood Ridge High School, led by No.1 singles player Torrie Browning.
Cheung and Browning are no strangers to each other's game. The two have faced each other in high school and on the USTA junior circuit, on which both are prominent players.
This year the two have split the two matches they have played and are 3-3 lifetime against each other in high school.
"It's a battle no matter what," said Cheung of her on-court foe, Browning. Off the court, Cheung said it's always good to see a familiar face when she travels to regional tournaments throughout Arizona and New Mexico.
Through March, Cheung was ranked No. 3 in the USTA Southwest Section behind Lynley Wasson of Tempe (No. 1) and Mariana Spilca of Belen, N.M. Browning checks in at No. 7 in the region, while teammate Raghavan ranks No. 34.
Because tennis is considered an individual sport on the high school level, Cheung is able to split her practice time during the week between working out at Foothills and at the Randolph Tennis Center, 100 S. Alvernon Way, where she trains with the Smith-Perry Tennis Academy for the USTA tour.
In the fall, Cheung will enroll at Connecticut, where her racquet has earned her a scholarship at the NCAA Division I school. The Huskies could use some help. Through the team's first 13 matches, UConn is 3-10. Before settling on UConn, Cheung entertained offers from Albany College, Butler, Boise State and Arkansas.
At UConn, Cheung will have four more years of playing tennis on the team level. Life on the USTA circuit is geared more toward the individual, rather than a team, said Cheung, who prefers a mixture of both.