DANA POINT — A key opportunity came and went Wednesday, but Craig McKennon and Greg Brostek simply had no time to get down.
Everyone watched the last set of the match still on court, and Newport Harbor High's No. 2 doubles team had just been broken while serving for that set the Sailors so desperately needed.
No worries. McKennon and Brostek have been partners for three years now, and the juniors came up huge.
"It was an adventure," McKennon said. "We expected to win [that game], but we knew we had to make up for it."
They immediately did, breaking back the Dana Hills team before Brostek served it out, helping seal Newport Harbor's 10-8 upset road win in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
"I loved that ending," said Sailors Coach Kristen Case, whose team will play host to Woodbridge Friday in the second round. "Craig and Greg work extremely hard and they never give up when they play. I knew they were going to pull it out. I have so much confidence in those two."
After a performance like Wednesday, Case can justifiably have confidence in her entire team. Everyone in singles and doubles won at least one set as Newport (12-7) shocked Dana Hills (14-3), which was ranked No. 7 in the final Division I poll. Prior to Wednesday, Dana Hills' only two losses had been to the top two teams in Orange County, University and Corona del Mar.
Newport Harbor had lost in the first round of CIF each of the last two years under Case, now in her third year. But Wednesday, McKennon and Brostek won two sets.
They had to win that last one, as the Tars would have lost if the match had gone to game count. As it was, the host Dolphins won more games, 86-80.
"It was thrilling, invigorating," Brostek said. "It was an adrenaline rush. I liked that it was up to us."
The No. 1 doubles team, the Sunset League championship team of Jason Cernius and Troy Arnold, also won a pair of sets In singles, No. 1 Tracy Beblie, a junior, and No. 3 Thomas Yamamoto, a senior, each won a pair of sets.
Yamamoto's tiebreaker victory over Dana Hills' Connor Corley helped Newport Harbor to a 4-2 lead after the first go-round. For the match, the Sailors won three of four tiebreaker sets.
Newport also extended its lead to 8-4 after the second go-round, although the Dolphins ran into some misfortune as their No. 1 singles player Jim Myers missed the first two rounds because he had an Advanced Placement art history exam. The exam started at noon but Myers couldn't get on the court until after 4 p.m.
The senior came on for a 6-0 win in the third round, but the damage had already been done, and the Sailors will take it.
"Throughout our season, this team has definitely progressed," Case said. "We had a really tough preseason, which was really good for us. Even through league, we showed step-by-step improvement. The one thing I've learned about this group is they're fighters. They never give up, and it really showed today."
Newport Harbor's No. 3 doubles team of Chad Morabito and Clay Friend won one of three sets, also in a tiebreaker, and sophomore Brandon Peters took a singles set as well for the Tars.
Now the Sailors will prepare for Woodbridge, which defeated Chaminade, 15-3, in another first-round match Wednesday. Newport Harbor lost to Woodbridge, 12-6, in a nonleague match April 14. But it's obvious to Case how much her team has grown since then, and she said she looks forward to the challenge.
Her players do, as well.
"It's good to know our hard work has paid off," McKennon said. "It's definitely a breakthrough."
CIF Playoffs Newport Harbor…10 Dana Hills…8Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times