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CIF tennis playoffs: One too many setbacks

Valencia can’t come back from big early deficit

Posted: November 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia doubles teammates Remy Balmain, left, and Jenny Ralston compete Monday against Laguna Beach High during the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs. Valencia lost the match 12-6.

Knowing full well she was playing the last set of her high school tennis career, Brigitta Benitez wasn’t about to end it early on account of darkness.

With only the nearby football stadium lights illuminating the court, Benitez capped off her Valencia career with a set victory, which provided a bit of consolation for Valencia’s season-ending 12-6 loss to Laguna Beach on Monday at Valencia High in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs.

“I really wanted that win,” said Benitez, who won two sets, 7-5 in the sunlight and 6-4 against Laguna’s Kira Hamilton to cap off the night.

Unlike in Friday’s second-round win over Canyon of Anaheim, the Vikings (18-5-1) fell way behind early and couldn’t recover.

Laguna Beach (17-5) edged out Valencia in a few close sets and took a 6-0 lead after the first round.

“We were better in the next two rounds, we just could never have dug out of that,” said Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg.

Valencia also had to deal with the loss of No. 1 doubles player Tina Inchalik, who hurt her wrist over the weekend.

Her usual doubles partner Ashley Keith instead played with Morgan Meunitz, and the two of them ended up winning two sets, 6-3, 6-4 after losing 6-4 to Laguna’s No. 1 team of Dominique Willette and Chloe Mansour.

“They’ve had to deal with adversity all year,” Kellogg said of the injury. “That was just one more thing.”

The only other doubles victory for the Vikings was claimed by Jennifer Ralston and Remy Balmain, who won 6-3. The same team lost a key set 7-6 (7-5) in their first matchup against the Breakers’ No. 3 pairing of Ashley Shelton and Madeline Loomis.

“It was a surprise to see us up 6-0 to be honest, considering how close the two teams were,” said Laguna Beach head coach Don Davis.

As the match wore on, Valencia tried to claw back, but couldn’t pick off enough sets to rally back against a solid, talented team which played aggressively at the net and showed the ability to hit accurate directional shots.

“They were just a tougher team,” Kellogg said. “Obviously, they were a very deep team. The deepest team we’ve seen this year.”

In addition to Benitez’s two wins, Valencia No. 2 singles player Sabrina Wueste knocked off Laguna No. 1 Brooke Michaels 6-4 for the Vikings’ final set win of the day.

The last three singles sets of the day were played under limited light, but none went later than the one involving Benitez, who is one of four seniors who played their last matches as part of the Valencia team.

“We worked harder than any other year because we don’t have top dog players,” Benitez said.

If Inchalik is healthy, she and Keith, along with fellow doubles team Alekhya Bommireddipalli and Lindsey Wolf, will take part in CIF-Southern Section Division II individuals playoffs beginning on Nov. 19.



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