It's Palos Verdes' Turn : Slim Chance of an Upset in Playoff for Southern Section Girls' Tennis Title

Times Staff Writer

Miraleste and Palos Verdes high schools have had exclusive rights to the Southern Section 4-A girls' tennis final in recent years, having played for the last three titles. Little has changed in 1985, and it is likely that the rivals from the Palos Verdes Peninsula will be at the West End Tennis Club in Torrance Nov. 26 to play for the title a fourth straight time.

The Southern Section playoffs will begin today.

"Each one of us should wind up in the finals," Miraleste's Coach Jim Hanson said. "There's not much chance of anybody upsetting either team if we play up to form."

If form is followed, this should be Palos Verdes' year, since it's an odd-numbered one. Miraleste won in 1982 and last year, Palos Verdes in '83. There's also a new twist this year that may work to Palos Verdes' advantage.

Three of Miraleste's top four players will be playing in the National Junior tournament the same week as the final. No. 2 Krista Amend, No. 3 Courtney Weichsel and No. 4 Kim Po will play for Miraleste through the semifinals Nov. 21, then will miss the final. "So we have a slim chance, but not much," Hanson said. He also pointed out, however, that Palos Verdes will lose Stella Sampras, its No. 2 singles player, to the national event.

Stephanie London, Miraleste's No. 1 singles player, will play the final, skipping the national tournament, in which she has played the last two years.

Is Miraleste so good, though, that the coach can count on advancing to the final before the playoffs have even begun? If anything, Miraleste is too good. Four Miraleste singles players are ranked in the top 15 in their age group in the country, which means that they are invited to national tournaments that interfere with their team's championship aspirations.

When Hanson became aware of the conflict in dates, he went to the Southern Section Executive Committee and asked for the date to be changed. The committee turned him down. "They didn't want to set a precedent for other sports," Hanson said.

"I understand partly. I don't agree with it, but I understand."

Next year, the final matches will be played a week later.

Miraleste has have lost only two matches in two years, both to Palos Verdes. Top seeded, Miraleste is 16-0 this season, including two wins over No. 2 Palos Verdes and three convincing victories over the 4-A's No. 3 seeded team, Los Angeles Westlake.

Combined, Miraleste and Palos Verdes have lost five times in two seasons, all of the losses having been to each other. Palos Verdes won both regular-season matches a season ago, and then lost in the final. Miraleste won both regular season matches this year, and if Hanson is right, Palos Verdes will win the final.

"If we can't win the title, then I want PV to win it," Hanson said. "It's a very friendly rivalry. They (the players) play at the same clubs and the whole bit.

"They (Palos Verdes) even wrote a letter asking for a change in the final date."

Another possible rematch looms in the 3-A, where runner-up Thousand Oaks and defending champion Westlake of Westlake Village are seeded third and fourth, respectively. Those teams tied in last year's final with nine sets apiece, but Westlake won the title on games, 74-71.

This year, though, Thousand Oaks won the Marmonte League title, which is why the Lancers are seeded ahead of Westlake, the team they beat out for the league championship.

"It would be nice to have a Thousand Oaks-Westlake showdown again," Westlake Coach Connie Flanderka said. "But it's too early to tell."

For a Thousand Oaks-Westlake rematch to become reality, however, those teams will have to beat the Nos. 1 and 2 seeded teams in 3-A competition, Santa Ana Mater Dei and San Marino, the same two teams that played for the title in 1983, when San Marino won, 14-4.

Westminster La Quinta is seeded No. 1 in the 2-A as the Aztecs begin their quest for a third straight title. An upset victory by Debbie Graham over Canoga Park Chaminade's top singles player, Karen Shin, was the difference last year as La Quinta edged Chaminade, 10-8, for the title. Chaminade is ranked third, with Indio second and Lompoc fourth.

Diamond Bar's Coach Jerry Davis promised after his team had won the 1-A title last year that the Brahmas would be back strong this year. His team has lived up to his promise. Diamond Bar, the Hacienda League champion, has a 19-0 record and seeded No. 1.

Diamond Bar is in only its fourth year of existence but in the previous three seasons has never done worse than advance to the semifinals.

In the City Section, playoffs will begin Nov. 20 with the quarterfinals. Eight teams qualify in each division based on league records, and both the 4-A and 3-A finals will be determined Dec. 3 at The Racquet Centre in North Hollywood.

Defending champion Palisades and North Hollywood are the top contenders for the 4-A title. Palisades defeated North Hollywood in the semifinals last year, 4-3, and proceeded to rout Taft for the title, 7-0.

Gardena won the 3-A title last year, defeating Eagle Rock in the final, 4-3. Eagle Rock is expected to contend for the championship, as is Carson, which won the title in 1983.

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