Enters Mountain League Finals Wednesday projected as the no. 2 seed
Atascadero senior Anneline Breytenbach has been one of the top tennis players in the county since her sophomore season when she teamed up with her older sister, Nicoline, at San Luis Obispo High School for the PAC-8 tournament and the two blazed their way through the bracket and ended the fall as doubles champions. Last season — sisterless in high school for the first time — Breytenbach played her season in singles, also contributing in doubles due to the move to the Central Section and the new format, and represented Atascadero in the CIF Tennis Championships, winning her first-round match 6-2, 6-0 before falling in the quarterfinals.
This season, as a senior, Breytenbach has been nearly untouchable and has cruised through the league with relative ease. The senior finished her regular season last week with two more wins over Righetti, one in singles and one in doubles, which brought her season record to an incredible 26-1 as she prepares for the Mountain League finals that will begin on Wednesday.
This year has been special for the humble senior who always deflects the glowing admirations of her peers with a complement of her opponent, for several reasons with the lead exciting perhaps being her near unblemished record.
“Well, obviously the winning part is fun,” Breytenbach said of what she liked about this year. “But I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like the same as the other years. Knowing that you are doing better is always nice but this year we actually don’t have any people that I didn’t know before. My little sister was the only new person on the team.”
This year, Breytenbach’s younger sister, Noella, entered high school, joined the tennis team and promptly ascended into the No. 2 role. Now as a senior, and the older sibling, Anneline has had the chance to mentor her little sister Noella, who occupied the Greyhounds No. 2 spot as Anneline did under Nicoline before her. Together, the two sisters were a force to be reckoned with until Noella injured her ankle earlier this season playing soccer, another sport both Breytenbach sisters play at a high level and were planning on playing together in doubles as Anneline and Nicoline did back in 2017.
“With her, I always know where she is,” Anneline said. “Or I can tell when she will be able to get to the ball or she won’t and also, I can yell at her more than I can yell at someone else who is not my sister,” she said through a smile.
The Breytenbach sisters have an advantage that most don’t and it has nothing to do with their individual skill but rather the language they can speak to one another.
“It is super fun,” the senior said. “Because we can communicate and we both speak Afrikaans, so we are able to talk to each other really well but now the roles have flipped. Nicoline was always the one that was calm and sometimes I would get a little more — not angry but emotional,” Anneline explained. “And now I have to be the calm one whereas Noella is now the more emotional one. So now I get it and will think, ‘Hey, that’s supposed to be me, not you.’”
Not only are the sisters on the team very close, but the entire team is as tight-knit as any as they have only added one girl in the past two seasons. Atascadero head coach Lori Bickel has cultivated a culture of togetherness and patience with the Greyhounds because they know they have time with their young team. Like a professional team with everyone locked up under contract, the Hounds brought back all their girls this season and will bring back nearly everyone next year. While the Hounds might have finished in fourth place overall in the Mountain League, you would never be able to tell based on the morale of the team.
Now, with the regular season over and her sister injured, Breytenbach is going to make her run at the singles title and see if she can’t finish her Greyhound career with both a singles and doubles title under her belt. The only girl who stands in her way is the girl that handed her the only loss on her record in Arroyo Grande’s Peyton Dunkle. Like the Breytenbachs, the Dunkles are a tennis family powerhouse as Peyton’s older sister Delanie Dunkle was a multiple County Player of the Year winner and a big reason why the Breytenbach’s chose to play together in 2017, so to avoid her in the singles final. However, Anneline and her sister did face a Dunkle that day in the 2017 final, but it was the younger, relatively unknown at the time, sister Petyon who was only a freshman.
Last season, the Dunkle sisters faced off in the singles final with the older sister Delanie walking away with another singles title, but this season the young lefty is the lone Dunkle at Arroyo Grande and Breytenbach’s top competition. The two will be on opposite sides of the bracket and will only meet in the finals which seems all but certain.
“I am definitely looking forward to it,” Breytenbach said. “Because it should be a good match regardless. In years past I have lost 0-6, 0-6, so the first set this year I got up and I think at one point I was even up 2-1 and I was like, ‘Wow I can do this actually,’ but it didn’t really register ‘til after.”
Dunkle has proven over the past two years that she can beat Breytenbach as the lefty is undefeated against the senior Greyhound, but Breytenbach’s only win against Dunkle came in her sophomore season in the doubles final in San Luis Obispo. Now in her senior season, the finals are back at San Luis Obispo and Breytenbach will have one last chance to beat her rival and claim a singles title before heading to the Division 1 CIF Tennis playoffs. As a top-two seed, Breytenbach should play two matches on Wednesday but may have to finish her second on Thursday as sometimes the days run long.