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Sailors beat Fountain Valley, stay on top in Sunset League

Monday and Tuesday are typically the first two days of the work week, and the Newport Harbor High girls’ tennis team certainly had to get to work on those two days this week.

The Sailors had two big Sunset League matches at home. After defeating defending league champion Los Alamitos by an 11-7 score on Monday, Newport Harbor vied against always-tough Fountain Valley on Tuesday.

That left little time to celebrate beating the Griffins, and the Sailors were aware of that.

“It was exciting, and then it was like, ‘OK, now time to focus on Fountain Valley,’ ” Newport sophomore doubles player Amra Barton said. “Coach [Kristen Case] always says after a big win, you have to keep on staying humble and hungry. I think that’s one of the big mottoes for the season, keep on staying hungry. As we’re improving, other teams are also improving, so we’ve still got to be on that grind.”

That mentality is working for Newport Harbor, which is the only unbeaten team in the league four matches in. The Sailors added to that total Tuesday with their 13-5 win over Fountain Valley.

Newport Harbor (10-2, 4-0 in league) is in the driver’s seat for its second league title in three years, after finishing third last year. The Sailors defeated the Barons (4-8, 1-3) with a balanced effort, earning seven singles wins and six doubles victories.

Senior Nicole Knickerbocker swept with three 6-0 sets at No. 1 singles, earning the “triple bagel.” Keilani Lee and Lauren Richter each won twice.

The doubles teams of Barton and Lauren Lipkowski, as well as Rachel Davis and Avery Wooden, plus Sterling Solomon and Riley DeCinces, all won twice for Newport Harbor.

“I’m very proud of the team, going two matches in a row, especially two anticipated matches,” Case said. “It requires a lot of energy and a lot of focus, and it takes a lot out of you. The girls did a phenomenal job of showing up both days. Our tennis has continued to improve, and I believe our competitive mind-set also has continued to improve. That’s been a really good asset for us.”

The Sailors clinched the match after the second round, with a 10-2 advantage. But Fountain Valley’s top doubles team of seniors Vikki Nguyen and Aozora Ito did provide a highlight for the visitors, closing out each round with a win. All of the sets were close, but Nguyen and Ito topped Davis and Wooden (6-4), Solomon and DeCinces (7-6) and Barton and Lipkowski (7-5).

Fountain Valley got its other set wins in singles, with Vivianne Le and Kaylee Tran claiming one set each.

The Barons, ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division 2, had hopes of claiming their first league title since 1991 this season. But they are not operating at full strength, and haven’t been for a while after senior No. 1 singles player Hanh Pham, the three-time Sunset League singles champion, sprained her ankle early in the season. The team also is missing junior doubles player Ivy Davis (back), coach Harshul Patel said.

“When you take the lead player out, it’s so hard, especially in girls’ [tennis],” Patel said. “We’re fighting and we’ll continue fighting.”

Newport Harbor closes out the first half of league at home against Edison on Thursday, while Fountain Valley plays Huntington Beach.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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