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SOUTHERN SECTION TENNIS PLAYOFFS : Woodbridge Needs to Go Deep Into Lineup to Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Members of the Woodbridge High School tennis team, the Southern Section’s top-ranked 3-A squad, ran off their bus cheering and shouting before a big match earlier this season.

That’s normal rah-rah stuff for football or basketball teams, but rare in the staid world of tennis, even high school team tennis.

But then the Warriors are not your normal team. Their top doubles team plays in the No. 2 spot, even though it beat the No. 1 team, won the league championship and advanced to the round of 16 in the Southern Section doubles tournament last week.

And it’s rarer still for a team to be as deep as Woodbridge. Normally, one or two top-ranked players dominate, but, as one rival coach says, their top seven players are almost interchangeable.

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“A real concerted team effort,” is how Woodbridge assistant coach Joan Willett describes the Warriors, who face San Marino for the 3-A championship at 2 today at the Racquet Club of Irvine.

Depth, a team spirit and a budding championship tradition are on the Warriors’ side as they seek a second consecutive title.

Last year, Woodbridge edged Sunny Hills, 10-8, to win its first championship.

This season, Woodbridge is 21-3 and has been the 3-A’s top-ranked team most of the season. San Marino (21-0 and the third-seeded team) knocked off Laguna Beach Thursday to advance to the title match.

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“Woodbridge could win,” said Laguna Beach Coach Bob Walton, whose team lost to Woodbridge twice this season. “They’re deeper . . . they’re capable of winning.”

Unlike last season, when Woodbridge could count on three victories from Randy Ivey, its burly No. 1 singles player, and at least two from Alex Steinhardt, its No. 2 player, the Warriors don’t have one or two standouts.

Ivey and Steinhardt have graduated, leaving a balanced lineup with only marginal differences between the top nine players.

“They know they all have to pull together, to contribute, or there’s no way we’ll win,” Willett said.

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On most days, barring upsets in practice, the Woodbridge lineup stacks up this way:

--In singles, Chris Emery, a senior, plays at No. 1; Rajan Saggar, a senior, is No. 2, and sophomore Erik Berg No. 3.

--In doubles, juniors Darren Isaacman and Victor Ro play at No. 1, seniors Brett Isaacman and Reza Nilforoushan are at No. 2, and sophomores Steve Shevel and Rajeev Saggar are the No. 3 team.

Brett Isaacman and Nilforoushan were the surprise winners of the Pacific Coast League doubles title and advanced to the round of 16 in the Southern Section tournament before falling to Sean McKenna and Derek Shinden of Thousand Oaks, 6-1, 6-0. McKenna and Shinden reached the final, but lost.

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The 4-A final features two unbeaten teams. Dana Hills (22-0 and second-seeded) plays host to top-seeded Santa Barbara (23-0) at 3 today at El Niguel Racquet Club.

Dana Hills is led by Ben Stevens, its No. 1 singles player. Peter Jeschke, Santa Barbara’s No. 1 singles player, was a semifinalist in the Southern Section individual tournament last week.


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