Newport Harbor High sophomore Reese Stalder has been playing some of his best tennis lately.
Last month in the Adoption Guild tournament, he narrowly lost in the men's open division quarterfinals to the top seed. This week, Stalder has advanced to the boys' 18s finals of the Laguna Niguel Junior Open, where he will play Newport Coast resident Max Pham on Friday at 3:30 p.m. That will be followed by the mixed doubles final, with his older sister Samantha.
For sure, Reese Stalder will be someone to watch in the coming 10 days as well. He figures to be a factor at the 111th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships, the largest junior tennis tournament in the country, which begins Saturday.
"I'm definitely feeling confident," Stalder said. "Hopefully I can do some damage."
Stalder, who won the boys' 16s doubles title at the doubles Junior Sectionals last November, opens boys' 18s doubles play with partner Austin Rapp of Rancho Mirage on Saturday. They play Keanu Ellen of Calabasas and Chad Glifenbain of Santa Monica in a round of 64 match at 3:30 p.m. at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club, the host venue for the event. Should No. 9-seeded Stalder and Rapp win, they'd have a round of 32 match at 6 p.m.
Stalder, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year with then-CdM freshman Henry Gordon, believes he and Rapp can make a run. Rapp, the top seed in boys' 16 singles, recently advanced to the CIF Individuals singles semifinals, and he was a part of the Individuals doubles titlists last year as a sophomore.
"We've played one tournament together," Stalder said. "I think we'll be a good team. He's a lot like Henry. He's a big hitter."
Several other locals will begin their doubles title quests Saturday as well. CdM's Alec Adamson and partner Adam Levie of San Diego are another No. 9 seed, as are Newport Beach resident Joseph Di Giulio and partner Logan Smith of Carlsbad. Di Giulio, a UCLA signee, has won singles titles at Junior Sectionals in the 10s, 12s and 14s divisions.
Pham and partner Shane-Austin Cruz of Anaheim also start doubles play Saturday, as do CdM resident Alastair Hurry and partner Justin Zhang of Irvine. All teams, if victorious in their round of 64 matches, would have a round of 32 match later Saturday. The doubles round of 16 and quarterfinals are scheduled for Monday.
The lone local in the girls' 18 doubles draw is Newport Beach resident Danielle Willson, paired with Katherine Nguyen of Fountain Valley. They open their tournament on Sunday.
Among title hopefuls in singles, CdM sophomore Chaz Downing is the No. 3 seed in boys' 16s, with Stalder as the No. 6 seed and Pham as the No. 8 seed. Each opens his singles tournament on June 21.
Di Giulio is the No. 5 seed in boys' 18s, with the UC Davis-bound Adamson as the No. 6 seed. Newport Coast resident Jenna Moustafa is the No. 7 seed in girls' 14s, with Willson also in the main draw. Annie Radeva is in the main draw (round of 64) in girls' 16 singles. Diego Fernandez is in the boys' 12s main draw.
Austin Di Giulio, who advanced to the boys' 12s singles championship match last year before losing, is the lone returning Newport-Mesa finalist in singles or doubles. He's also in the main draw, in the 14s this year.
The main draw (round of 64) begins Thursday for boys' and girls' 12s and 14s and the next day for the older divisions.
The rest of the local players will have to push through qualifying, beginning this weekend, hoping to make it to the round of 64.
They include: Jake Olson and Charlie Olson (boys' 10s); Max McKennon, Daniel Day, JP Day, Thomas Day and Grant McCabe (boys' 12s); Jacob Holiday and Andre Saleh (boys' 14s); Bjorn Hoffmann, Tyler Gaede, Pedro Fernandez and Adam Lanegvin (boys' 16s).
Local girls in qualifying include Isabel McKinney, Claire Nguyen, Skyler Grishuk and Nicole Knickerbocker (12s); Brooke Kenerson and Mackenzie Worsnop (14s); Paige Kenerson (16s); and Olivia Laws, Samantha Stalder and Ashley Kratzer (18s).
The tournament continues through Monday, then resumes on June 20. The finals for all age divisions are scheduled for Monday, June 24, except the 10s finals scheduled for the day before.