One point from losing the City Section individual doubles tennis championship last Thursday, Stephanie Fontaine and Carrie Greenberg of Taft High decided they would rather fight than face defeat.
Even if it meant fighting each other.
"We were just so frustrated," Fontaine said of an on-court shouting match between herself and Greenberg. "We didn't know what to do, so we blew up."
With previously unbeaten Torri Ellman and Nancy Kwon of Palisades ahead 6-4, 5-3 and 40-30 in the second set, Fontaine and Greenberg used that fight to spark a comeback. They saved four match points and took the final two sets, 7-6 (11-9), 7-5, to win the title at The Racquet Centre in Studio City.
"That argument started them on the way to being more focused," Coach Marvin Jones said.
Fontaine and Greenberg were willing to do almost anything to win during senior seasons in which they went 20-1 and led Taft to the City team final for the fourth consecutive year.
The Taft pair made an improbable journey to the championship match. Fontaine, who had swept to the City doubles title in her junior year, compiling a 21-1 record with senior Pam Klosterman, told Jones at the start of the 1991 season that she wanted to play singles. Greenberg had been Taft's consummate role player, filling in at both doubles and singles in the previous two seasons, but nothing about her play suggested a City championship.
Fontaine, however, reconsidered her request and decided to play doubles once more. Jones then paired her with Greenberg, reuniting a team that had played No. 3 doubles for Taft in 1989.
"We were not a good team at the beginning of the season," Fontaine said. "Getting a new partner was hard. It took four or five matches for us to get in sync."
Greenberg said hard work pushed the team to its title. "I don't think we expected to win the individuals, but we practiced with that goal in mind," Greenberg said.
Greenberg, who also played soccer and took modern dance as a youngster, got her start playing tennis at age 10, but she had to be talked into trying out for the Taft team as a freshman.
"My best friend . . . wanted to try out for the tennis team and wanted me to try out with her," Greenberg said.
Greenberg, who carries a 4.1 grade-point average, hopes to study journalism at either Penn, Princeton, or Northwestern. She also wants to try out for her college team.
Fontaine first picked up a racket when she was 12 but got more serious about the sport when she came to Taft.
An excellent athlete, Fontaine has started for four years as a left fielder on the Toreador softball team and is considered an excellent college prospect, with schools such as San Diego State and Cal State Northridge interested in her. Like Greenberg, Fontaine is also interested in studying journalism.
"Stephanie is an instinctive player," Greenberg said. "She can crunch the ball. I rely more on placement and intellect."
Fontaine praised Greenberg's ability to keep the ball in play and to lob. "Carrie is more consistent than I am. I'm more aggressive at the net."
The Taft pair also has shown a knack for the strategic aspect of the game.
In Thursday's final, Fontaine and Greenberg fell behind using their normal attacking style, so they switched to a more passive approach, beating their Palisades opponents from the baseline with a variety of lobs and consistent ground strokes.
"There probably are not many high school teams that use tactics as well as Stephanie and Carrie do," Jones said. "They can adjust during the flow of a match."
Even if the adjustment includes an on-court fight.