Delanie Dunkle made an inevitable choice this season.
After splitting her time between golf and tennis for most of her life, and winning County Player of the Year in both sports as a sophomore, Dunkle stepped away from the Arroyo Grande High School golf team during her junior season to focus on a bright tennis future and save added stress on her body.
“It was a very hard decision because I love the golf team, and I love my golf coach,” Dunkle said. “I just felt like I really needed to focus on tennis because that’s what I am going to end up playing in college.”
The strategy didn’t work exactly according to plan.
Dunkle dealt with a back injury that forced her to play less for the tennis team than she anticipated. When she was healthy, she was in action almost every weekend in junior tournaments around the state and let her young high school? teammates, like her freshman sister, Peyton, get valuable court time.
“(Delanie) was a team captain as a junior and led by example. She was a really good role model for a very young team,” Arroyo Grande head coach Lori Hollister said.
When she did play, she was dominant. Dunkle was 14-2 in singles play for the season and helped lead a team that started four freshmen to a 14-0 PAC 8 record (20-2 overall) and its eighth straight undefeated league title.
When it came time for league finals and playoffs, Dunkle came ready to play. She won the PAC 8 singles title and advanced to the Round of 32 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs before a bout with the flu caused her to withdraw the day before her match. For her accomplishments, Dunkle has been named The Tribune’s Girls Tennis County Player of the Year.
Dunkle, 16, continues to be a top player outside of school. She’s currently rated as a four-star prospect by TennisRecruiting.net and is ranked as the No. 35 junior in California and No. 154 in the nation. She started talking to college coaches in September.
“I am really enjoying the recruiting process, but I haven’t made any decisions on a school yet,” Dunkle said. “I would like to do something in medicine or engineering, so academics comes into my decision along with the team atmosphere.”
She even picked up her first taste of the pro ranks in September when she earned a wild-card entry and teamed up with Arroyo Grande graduate and Gonzaga University junior Sophie Whittle for a doubles match at the first annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open at the Templeton Tennis Ranch. The pair lost in the first round, but the experience let Dunkle know she’s on the right track.
“It was so amazing,” Dunkle said of playing in the pro tournament. “That one match made me just want to keep pursuing that and keeping working super hard to try and get to that point again.”
For now, Dunkle’s main goal is to remain healthy and work on the mental aspect of her game. Dunkle plans to play in the Henry Talbert Junior Championships in Palm Desert alongside other top junior players from around the country when the junior tennis season kicks off in January.