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SOUTHERN SECTION TEAM TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : 4-A DIVISION : Santa Barbara Slams Door on Dana Hills

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before the match, Dana Hills High School Coach John Stephens said it was unlikely his team would beat top-seeded Santa Barbara for the Southern Section 4-A championship Wednesday.

“We’ll have to play nearly perfect to upset them today,” Stephens said.

It didn’t happen. From the outset, Santa Barbara dominated Dana Hills at the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club. Santa Barbara won, 18-0, and posted the only shutout in a Southern Section boys’ tennis final since 1944, the first year records were kept.

It was the third consecutive Southern Section title for Santa Barbara (26-0), which defeated Dana Hills, 12-6, in the 4-A semifinals last season and Beverly Hills in the final, 14-4. The Dons won the 5-A championship in 1988 and last lost a dual meet to University in the 5-A finals in 1987.

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With all that Santa Barbara history and the fact that the Dons defeated Corona del Mar--the team Dana Hills beat, 10-8, in the semifinals--by a score of 16-2 this season, the match looked as if it would be a certain fleecing.

Santa Barbara Coach Jack Trigueiro said the Dons’ game plan was to make sure they didn’t take Dana Hills lightly.

“I think that it is sometimes hard for a team that is favored to come out and stay focused for three sets,” Trigueiro said. “I don’t see where we broke down in any of the 18 sets.

“I think we have a good team but we had a hell of a day.”

Dana Hills’ best shot at taking a set came in the first-round play. Because all of the other first-round sets had been completed, the attention of the nearly 200 in attendance was directed at the No. 2 doubles set between the Dana Hills team of Tony Roseen and Ryan Robinett and Santa Barbara’s Jeff Villano and Dominic Habibi.

But Villano and Habibi won the tiebreaker, 9-7, and took the set, 7-6, giving Santa Barbara a 6-0 lead in the match.

Stephens said the season shouldn’t be judged by the lopsided loss that ended it. Only three of nine players returned from the team that was eliminated by Santa Barbara in the semifinals last year, so making the finals was a bit of a surprise for the Dolphins, who finished 22-1.

“The kids aren’t going to dwell on this one because we had such a successful year,” Stephens said. “We exceeded the expectations of just about everyone. This is the only team that is better than us.”

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