They sat quietly next to each other in the backseat a year ago, riding to the City Section girls’ tennis individual finals, an awkward tension suddenly separating sisters.
Johanna and Julianna Galindo didn’t talk to each other at breakfast that morning either, silently eating bagels and eggs. Later that day, they’d be staring at each other on opposite sides of the net, two Marshall High stars playing for a singles championship.
“We just tried our best,” Johanna said, “to pretend like we didn’t know each other.”
Impossible. They grew up sleeping in single beds in the same room. So they woke up next to each other the morning of that 2021 championship — and, improbably, awoke just the same a year later last Wednesday to play each other again in this year’s singles finals.
“In the beginning of the CIF, we weren’t really thinking about playing each other that much,” junior Johanna said. “Once we were in the finals, it was just like, ‘Woah.’”
The car ride to the finals was slightly less awkward this year, the benefit of experience lessening the Galindo sisters’ tension. Their mother, Joy, said they were telling each other, “I’m gonna beat you.”
For the second consecutive year, Johanna emerged victorious, claiming the title with a 6-3, 6-3 win after winning 6-4, 6-4 in 2021. As the sisters giggled while discussing the experience, though, it was clear — no hard feelings. No awkward Thanksgiving dinners.
“I wasn’t really disappointed,” Julianna said. “… I know I put all my effort in and I worked really hard for each point and game. But Hanna just did insanely well.”
Their legacy could extend past Marshall, as both are widely classified as four-star tennis recruiting prospects. Julianna went into this summer ranked 22nd in the USTA girls’ 16U Southern California tournament standings, while Johanna ranked 41st in 18U.
The Marshall High sisters get frequent comments, Johanna said, that they’re the next Serena and Venus Williams. And they’ve already decided: Julianna, the more level-headed of the two, is Venus, while Johanna’s aggressive style is more similar to Serena’s.
And yes, they’re extremely close, but they also have a seismic difference in attitudes.
“Julianna’s a little bit too calm for me,” Johanna said.
It’s made them an awful fit as doubles partners despite their collective talent. In their last match playing together, five months ago, Johanna got furious with Julianna every time the younger sister missed a point. Whatever she’d say, though, the two laughing at the memory, it wasn’t anything too personal.
And Julianna tried to use Johanna’s fire against her last Wednesday, knowing her older sister hated losing a single point.
“I try to get her really mad, and run for every ball,” Julianna said.
Yet Johanna, in turn, knew leaning into her anger wouldn’t work against her sister, trying to keep cool and clear her head. After Julianna took a 3-2 lead in the first set, Johanna came back to win 6-3, keeping her foot on the gas to take the second set and the singles crown.
The two have lofty goals, both hoping to play at NCAA Division I schools on the West Coast, inviting the possibility they could face each other again at the college level. But for now, at least, Julianna’s high school aim is simple.
“Once my sister leaves high school and graduates,” Julianna said while laughing, “I hope I can finally win CIF individuals.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.