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Boys' Tennis: Sailors clinch third place outright

With all of the other sets in the match finished, eyes turned to Newport Harbor High senior captains Sean Perrier and Garrett Byers.

The Sailors were up 9-8 in Monday's Sunset League boys' tennis match against Marina, but they needed one last win from Perrier and Byers. The visiting Vikings had enough games to win, if it came to that.

Perrier and Byers, meanwhile, were up against it. They lost their previous set of the match, and even were down a break of serve to Marina's Kendall Harris and Paul Ambrose in that final set. But they found a way, winning the final three games and taking the set, 6-4.

This year, the Sailors won't have to share third place in league with Marina like they did last year. They clinched it outright after the 10-8 victory in the league finale, also clinching a guaranteed CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff berth for the second straight year.

Newport Harbor (13-5, 6-4 in league) technically needed just seven sets in Monday's match to clinch the tiebreaker against Marina, since the Sailors won the teams' first meeting, 12-6. But the outright win felt great, too.

The teams were tied 3-3 after one round and 6-6 after two rounds.

"We had to get at least seven sets," Coach Kristen Case said. "We knew that, and it was nice to have that cushion. However, this being the last league match of the season, we definitely wanted to get the win."

Perrier and Byers, the No. 1 doubles team, improved to 45-10 this season after that final win. Yet it was the second-round set, a 7-5 loss to Joseph Nguyen and David Tran, that really motivated them. They also had to persevere through Perrier's toe injury, which Case said was suffered in a freak accident over the weekend.

"I was pretty mad that we lost," Byers said. "We really wanted to sweep in our last league match, but it didn't go our way. It's a good thing that we won the last one, for sure. We knew we had to; we just had to get our heads on straight."

They still won two doubles sets, as did the No. 3 team of David and Mark Schaefer. The No. 2 team, featuring senior Phillip Vu and freshman David Lee, swept in impressive fashion, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2.

Case paired Vu and Lee together for the first time this season. Lee typically plays singles but was nursing a back injury during Monday's match. Vu played cheerleader for Lee, consistently trying to get him pumped up throughout the match.

Vu said he almost didn't play on the team this season, but he is glad that he stuck it out.

"This has been one of the best teams," Vu said. "It's so great to go back to CIF, especially with this group of guys. This is our year."

Newport junior Reese Stalder also swept at No. 1 singles Monday, improving to 40-2 this season, including a 22-2 mark in league. His day against Marina included an impressive 6-2 victory over Vikings sophomore Max Cancilla, who bested Stalder last year in the semifinals of the league individuals tournament.

"Reese played well," Marina Coach Bruce Beutler said. "Reese served really well, and I think that might have made the difference. He's an excellent player. The Sunset League's got all sorts of [good players] ... it'll be interesting entering individuals. That will be a tough battle. That's probably the best group of singles players that we've had in a long time."

The two-day league individuals tournament begins Wednesday at Seal Beach Tennis Center.

Cancilla, Brendan Barr and Kevin Manouchehri, all sophomores, all won two singles sets Monday for the Vikings (13-7, 4-6), who finish fourth in the six-team league. They are eligible to apply for an at-large berth for the Division 1 playoffs, since they have an overall record of .500 or better. The playoff brackets for all divisions will be released May 12 at 11 a.m.

Newport Harbor wants to extend its stay in the playoffs. Last year the Sailors lost in a wild-card match to Beckman. They appear to have momentum at the end of this season, though. Last Thursday they suffered a narrow 10-8 league defeat to Los Alamitos, ranked No. 5 in Division 1.

"I think we're in a really good place," Case said. "The season, at certain points it gets long, and what we've really been focusing on is consistent improvement and not peaking too early. We've really done a good job of continuing to improve through each stage of our season. Especially with that Los Al match last Thursday, that really gave us some extra confidence and showed us just how much better we've gotten. We're starting to peak at the right time."

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