LIVINGSTON, NJ — For many girls tennis programs in the area, the task of breaking in a new player at the first singles might seem daunting. But at Livingston High School (LHS), where tennis talent abounds and coach Elliot Lovi's teams regularly contend for county and state championships, that scenario just means an opportunity to place another skilled player in a high-leverage position on the team.

Junior Valencia Xu takes over the first singles role for the Lancers this fall. She might be a newcomer to the Livingston varsity team, but Xu comes equipped with an impressive resume.

Xu is the No. 1 ranked junior player in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Eastern Division Girls 16s and Girls 18s. Earlier this month, she reached the final round of the USTA National Youth Tennis Championships in San Diego in the Girls 16-Hard Surface division before losing. In June, she won the J4 Haverford (Pa.) International Grass Court Championships.

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Earlier this year, Xu was also one of 11 junior players to be honored for outstanding sportsmanship during the USTA’s annual Junior Awards Luncheon after being nominated by junior tournament directors and coaches. Xu ultimately received the Lawrence A. Miller Girls’ 16 and Under Sportsmanship Award.

Seniors Emma Conforti and Brielle Schwartz return for the Lancers at second and third singles, respectively. Conforti went 12-8 for Livingston last year at first singles, and Schwartz was 14-5 playing second singles in 2018.

Juniors Selena Zhu, Emily Sze and Stephanie Li and sophomore Allison Miller will comprise the Lancers' two doubles teams to start the season.

Lovi, who has coached the boys tennis program at Livingston for 47 years, is in his ninth year as the girls' coach at the school. After going 16-4 last season, Lovi expects another strong showing from the girls team this year.

"Livingston should be very competitive in the Super Essex Conference, the Essex County Tournament, North Jersey sectional and state competition," Lovi said. "Experience and depth are the team's strengths."