Catalina Foothills junior Kirtana Bhat has the second-seeded Falcons in line to repeat as Division II state champions.

In her first two years with the Catalina Foothills girls tennis team, junior Kirtana Bhat accomplished a lot alongside her older sister, Rachana Bhat.

But this season, Kirtana is playing without her familiar partner. Rachana graduated last year, and now plays for the University of New Mexico.

The sisters teamed up to win Division II doubles titles in each of the last two seasons, and the Falcons also won their fourth team championship in the last five years in 2013.

Without her sister around anymore, Kirtana says she feels like there is a little more weight on her shoulders. One of the main things she’s adjusting to is playing with her new doubles partner, senior Noelle Karp.

“My sister and I were so used to each other, so I’ve had to communicate differently with Noelle,” Bhat said. “My sister and I practiced so much, we didn’t have to tell each other much. We just knew.”

Coach Kristie Stevens says she is confident it’s just a matter of time for the new doubles duo.

“There’s a lot to be said when you’re playing with your sister and you just have natural chemistry,” Stevens said. “You can’t re-create that, so I know another doubles combination will have some things to work on. Both are such strong tennis players, I think their skills will come forward.”

Stevens thinks Bhat has to adjust to being the strategist — like her sister was — but believes she has handled the pressure well and stepped up as a leader. Bhat has taken over the No. 1 spot on the team, and was 4-0 in singles competition after Foothills beat host Tucson High 9-0 Thursday.

Bhat’s coach also says the junior’s easy-going nature is a huge asset.

“She has a great personality,” Stevens said. “She has a great relationship with the girls, and they look up to her.”