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CIF girls tennis: Semifinality

West Ranch loses for the second year in a row to Sage Hill in Division III semifinals

Posted: November 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch No. 1 singles player Ana Cecilia Fuentes watches her shot against Sage Hill in the CIF-Southern Section Division III semifinal match on Thursday at West Ranch. For the second straight year the Wildcats’ season ended at the hands of the Lightning.

For the second year in a row, the West Ranch girls tennis team saw its run to the CIF-Southern Section Division III finals end at the hands of Sage Hill School of Newport Beach.

The Lightning (17-4) used a successful second round to open up a close match en route to a 10-4 victory that ended the Division III semifinal early due to darkness at West Ranch High on Thursday.

The loss caps the most successful season in West Ranch girls tennis history, as the Wildcats (18-1) finished the regular season undefeated and alone atop the Foothill League standings by sweeping Valencia for the first time in school history.

“The most successful season that we have ever had in our history,” said West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker on how he will look back on the year. “A lot of positives.”

West Ranch and Sage Hill had met earlier this season, in a 9-9 (78-69) West Ranch victory on games, and early Thursday it looked as though the semifinal match might be just as close.

West Ranch No. 1 singles player Ana Cecilia Fuentes defeated the Lightning’s No. 1 player Liana Kerber 6-1 to start the match. The Wildcats No. 1 doubles team of Gabrielle Morici and Lena Poonnopatam won a tiebreaker over Sage Hill’s No. 1 team of Rian Billingsley and Kimberly Brown 7-6, to help tie the match at three after one round of play.

The second round wasn’t so kind to the Wildcats.

In a round that was riddled with multiple controversial decisions, the Wildcats dropped five of the six sets to trail the match 8-4 after two rounds.

In the round, Sage Hill’s No. 3 doubles team won a tight match with Morici and Poonnopatam, coming back from a 5-1 deficit in a tiebreaker to win 7-6 (8-6).

West Ranch’s No. 3 singles player, Anne DeGiorgio lost 7-5 to the Lightning’s No. 2 player Molly Wang, in a match that saw both coaches enter the court to resolves numerous line disputes.

The controversy didn’t end there, either.

In a match between Sage Hill’s No. 2 doubles team of Katie Bick and Casey Astorino and West Ranch’s No. 3 team of Sarah Andrews and Amanda Wilkinson, the coaches were forced to settle a score dispute when Sage Hill thought it had won a game, and West Ranch disagreed.

“They’re great players,” Fuentes said, “some of them. ... I didn’t think they were winning the best way, but I wouldn’t say we lost because of that. We don’t try to do whatever we can to win. I think their main goal was to win no matter what cost.”

Entering the third round of play, the Lightning needed just two victories to secure their second straight final appearance, as Sage Hill lost to St. Margaret’s 9-9 (69-60) in last year’s championship match after defeating West Ranch 10-8 in the semifinals.

Billingsley and Brown defeated Andrews and Wilkinson 6-0, and Kerber defeated DeGiorgio 6-0 to secure the victory.
“I was definitely excited,” Kerber said of finding out her win secured victory for the team. “Playing singles in CIF is a brutal position,” Kerber said. “Because you play a lot of teams with at least one, maybe two girls in the top 100 in (Southern California).”

While the loss means an end to the Wildcats’ season, the team has set itself up well for a return run next season.
The team will lose seven players to graduation, including Morici, Poonnopatam, Jordyn Jaffe, DeGiorgio and Sarah Andrews.

Returning, though, are singles players Fuentes and freshman Julia Lynch and doubles players MacKenzie Lyle and Wilkinson.

“We’ve got a lot of talent returning,” Spiecker said. “And we’ve got a lot of talent coming up. They’ve worked hard to help fill in.”

For now, though, West Ranch will be left to celebrate the season that was.

“I am going to remember the memories that I had with all my friends,” Morici said. “And working hard every day. Beating Valencia twice, which was our goal, and getting back to this point.”


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