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New CIF Southern Section Open Division offers intrigue in girls’ tennis

New CIF Southern Section Open Division offers intrigue in girls’ tennis
Shaya Northrup and the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis team are the defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 champions. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The CIF Southern Section has introduced a new open division in girls’ tennis for the fall season, it announced when division placings were revealed on Thursday.

The top eight teams in the final CIF Southern Section Division 1 girls’ tennis coaches’ poll will advance to the open division.

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Corona del Mar High appears to be one of the teams that will vie for an open division placement. The Sea Kings, the defending Division 1 champions who were undefeated last season, are one of three local teams in the division this season. Newport Harbor and Sage Hill also compete in Division 1.

CdM lost Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year Danielle Willson to graduation, as well as senior transfers Annika Bassey and Paulina Loredo. But the Sea Kings are expected to return top seniors like Kristina Evloeva, Bella McKinney, Shaya Northrup and Roxy MacKenzie.

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Newport Harbor has been in Division 1 ever since making back-to-back Division 2 finals appearances in Division 2. Coach Kristen Case, who will be entering her 12th year in charge in the fall, said she likes the idea of the open division.

The Sailors have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2015. Sage Hill also has lost in the first round each of the last two years.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Case said. “The top eight teams in Division 1, they’re all usually pretty evenly matched, and then usually there’s a bit of a drop off. So, what a great way for those top eight teams to have some great competitive action in the playoffs.

“I’m not going to complain about it. We’ve been privileged to be able to make the D1 playoffs the last few years we’ve been in D1, but once you get there, it’s a whole new ballgame. You meet those top few teams in the first couple of rounds, and it’s tough.”

Division 2 will feature three more Sunset League teams in Edison, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach. The Chargers and Barons are holdovers in the division from last year, while the Oilers are up a division after competing in Division 3.

Laguna Beach, which is joining the Sunset League as well as it leaves the Orange Coast League, drops from Division 2 to Division 3. Marina will stay in Division 3.

Costa Mesa and Estancia are two cross-town rivals that are staying in Division 4. The Eagles earned two tight wins against the Mustangs last year in the Orange Coast League, finishing tied for second in league before losing a Division 4 wildcard match to Bolsa Grande, 12-6. The Mustangs were fourth in league and failed to make the postseason.

Los Amigos and Ocean View both remain in Division 5 for girls’ tennis.

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