It did not take a keen eye to spot the irregularity in Thursday’s Orange Coast League girls’ tennis match between Estancia High and Costa Mesa. Rain did not factor into the match, but it will be defined by the following three words: to be continued.
A premature handshake between Estancia’s Annie Mitchell and Costa Mesa’s Alexis Votran had the Eagles celebrating what they believed to be a 10-8 victory over the host Mustangs in the Battle for the Bell.
Further discussion revealed the error. When Mitchell approached the net for the handshake, Votran was confused and was led to believe that the match was first to six games. A player must win a set by reaching six games and leading by two. Mitchell led, 6-5, after the players traded breaks of serve before the changeover.
For Mitchell, she thought she had won, 6-4. Having played two games following a changeover, the match should not have been completed with an even number of games.
Mitchell left the courts for an SAT prep class immediately following the handshake. The dispute broke out after.
Coaches considered the possibility of Estancia forfeiting the set, but after the total games were calculated, it was learned that the match was consequential.
Estancia held a 9-8 lead in sets, 78-77 in games, on the scorecard. If Votran were to break Mitchell’s serve and win the ensuing tiebreaker, Costa Mesa would win the match, 9-9 (79-78 on games).
The coaches were unable to come to an agreement, so the athletic directors stepped in. Costa Mesa’s Sharon Uhl and Estancia’s Nate Goellrich decided to play on.
The match will resume at 2 p.m. Friday at Costa Mesa High. Mitchell, the Eagles’ left-handed No. 1 singles player, will be attempting to serve out the match at 6-5.
“I think we’re doing what is right and fair for both parties involved,” Goellrich said. “We both feel like we’re handling this the correct way. We’ll settle it tomorrow on the court.”
Asked if he felt the right conclusion had been arrived at, Mustangs co-coach Ryan Broccolo deferred to the discretion of the athletic directors.
“It’s not my jurisdiction,” he said. “I’m not the one that can make that decision. I think the ADs spoke, and I think it’s fair to let the girls finish out the match.”
The match has the utmost importance to the playoff picture too, as Estancia (4-1 in league) won the first meeting in similar fashion. Estancia won its home match with the Mustangs, 9-9 (87-81 on games).
Mitchell and Votran went home, having the night to think about the rivalry match coming down to a matter of one game and a possible tiebreaker. Broccolo said there is no pressure on Votran.
“Any time you get a chance to play, it’s a privilege,” Broccolo said. “You get a chance to come out and get those competitive juices flowing. Whether it’s four points or a game and a tiebreaker, it’s fun.”
“Tomorrow is Homecoming for [the Mustangs]. She’s [sophomore] class president. She gets to go to school, gets a fun football game. She’s going to come out and have fun, happy to play.”
Estancia led 7-5 after the second round of action. Mitchell swung the odds in the Eagles’ favor when she rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Hannah Mellies, 6-4.
Mellies took to the court in the third round and defeated Leslie Hernandez, 6-0, the only set to be won by either team without dropping a game.
“Last time, we fought our hardest and it was very close,” Mellies said. “I thought if we came back out here and played our hardest that we might have another chance at it.”
“I had to win [my third match]. I had to do it for my team.”
The Mustangs (3-5, 2-2) claimed two doubles wins in the third round to make the drama possible. Amber Lee and Rachel Pham defeated Veronica Martinez and Angeles Colin, 6-2. Hallie Tran and Leslie Delgado beat Crystal Castaneda and Vanessa Ruiz, 6-3.
Estancia’s efforts were spearheaded by Kate Harrison, who swept her singles matches, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. The Eagles’ top doubles team of Julianna Balducci and Rocio Hernandez also completed a sweep, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.