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Prep tennis: No all-valley final

West Ranch girls tennis’ farthest-ever playoff push ends in the Division III semifinals at Sage Hill

Posted: November 18, 2010 10:29 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

NEWPORT BEACH - It may not have been the type of ending West Ranch girls tennis had hoped for, but in some ways it was fitting.

West Ranch mostly dominated its opponents and breezed through the first three rounds of the CIF-Southern Section Division III playoffs, but Sage Hill of Newport Beach needed a solid all-around effort to knock off the Wildcats 10-8 in the semifinal round on Thursday.

It ended the program's deepest run into the playoffs in school history.

"I told the girls I was very proud of them," said West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker of the season. "We did everything right to put ourselves in position to win the match."

West Ranch (16-2) was simply out-played by an "inspired" Sage Hill team, Spiecker said.

"It wasn't like they were out there making a bunch of unforced errors," he said of his players. "That would have been a different story. (Sage Hill) just stepped up today."

Coming into the match, the Lightning (19-6) hadn't lost a doubles set yet in the playoffs, bringing a 27-0 record into the day.

Though the Wildcats did end the streak, they only managed two doubles wins on the day.

The West Ranch No. 1 doubles team of True O'Neill and Mallory Martin, which was previously undefeated in match play this season, lost two of their three sets, with the one win coming against the No. 2 doubles team of Devyn Billingsely and Lauren Hsu, 6-4. They lost 7-5 to the No. 1 doubles team of Kaitie Bick and Rian Billingsely and 6-2 in their final set.

"Tennis is such a mental game," O'Neill said. "We do such a good job of staying calm under pressure, but we're not used to playing this long. We've never been this far before, so I think we're just mentally exhausted."

On top of that, their opponents were on target all day long, especially in the pairing's final set of the day against the No. 3 team of Olivia Simon and Ava Soleimany.

"They're not a real powerful team, but they're real scrappy," said Sage Hill head coach A.G. Longoria of his No. 3 team. "They played the set of the century."

The Wildcats made up for lost ground in singles play.

Both Ana Lucia Fuentes and Ana Cecilia Fuentes swept their sets, as the two sisters helped build an early West Ranch lead.

Ana Lucia won her sets 6-1, 6-0 and 6-0 and Ana Cecelia won 6-0, 6-1 and 6-0.

The Lightning swung back later in the day with key doubles victories in the Nos. 2 and 3 matchups.

"It was a tale of two cities," Spieker said. "We dominated in singles, but only won two sets in doubles."

West Ranch's only other doubles win in the match came in a 6-2 victory when Gabrielle Morici and Lena Poonnopatam beat Sage Hill's No. 2.

"We picked the right time to play our best match of the season," Longoria said.

It was the end of a historic season for West Ranch tennis and a nearly perfect season for the senior pairing of O'Neill and Martin. But at least there was one parting gift.

"I'm just proud that we made it this far," Martin said. "My biggest thing was I wanted to beat Valencia, and we did that earlier this year."

 

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