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DeVera Wins One for Team : Girls’ tennis: Villa Park junior’s rally in front of raucous crowd ensured the Spartans would continue their season.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sixteen-year-old Faye DeVera has won a lot of big matches in her career, but most of those came in junior tennis tournaments--meaning she won them for herself. Thursday, DeVera wasn’t playing for herself or even her parents, she was playing for her school.

Although she had played in front of bigger crowds at the Ojai tournament, DeVera had never played in front of a louder crowd than the one at Calabasas High.

“Every match had finished and people surrounded the court watching us,” DeVera said. “It was a total verbal match. People were yelling Shera [Weigler] and my name at the same time and I couldn’t tell who they were cheering for. It was really fun having all those people cheer you on. I’m used to playing junior [tennis] matches with just a few people watching and nobody saying anything.”

The way she was playing, DeVera might have wished she were on a quiet back court somewhere. She trailed, 3-0, and was a having difficult time getting first serves in. But DeVera took some pace off her first serve and her percentage started climbing.

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Eventually, she pulled out a 6-4 victory over Weigler, giving Villa Park a one-game victory over Calabasas and its first trip to the Southern Section team final.

“I think my team helped me through it,” she said. “It’s really exciting. I’ve never been this far before as a team.”

Once the match ended, the celebrating began.

“My teammates all ran on the court,” DeVera said. “They were bowing to me. It was kind of funny, actually. It wasn’t just me though. We pulled out some big doubles wins and that was as important as my match.”

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Assistant coach Sherry Smith said it was fitting Villa Park’s season hinged on DeVera’s set.

“If you were going to ask one player to win a set, you’d want it to be Faye,” Smith said. “She’s been so consistent all year.”

To say the least.

DeVera has been perfect in 51 sets of tennis. But DeVera said her perfect season isn’t an accident.

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“It was a goal to go undefeated,” said DeVera, who was Orange County’s player of the year in 1994 as a sophomore. “I’m still trying to work through it to go undefeated the whole way.”

She’s not simply talking about winning three sets in Tuesday’s Division II final against Laguna Beach at the Claremont Club. DeVera also is interested in winning the section individual championship. As a freshman, she was beaten in the round of 16. Last year, she lost to eventual champion Amanda Basica of Palos Verdes Peninsula in the quarterfinals. Saturday, she won two matches without losing a set to again advance to the round of 16.

“It’s a goal to win CIF,” she said. “I think I can maybe top what I did last year.”

DeVera’s goals didn’t appear reachable in August, when she lost in the first round of the U.S. Tennis Assn. girls’ 16 nationals in San Diego. She won two rounds of the consolation draw, but expected much more of herself.

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“That was a real eye opener,” said DeVera, who is ranked third in Southern California in the girls’ 16 division. “It told me I really had to get in better shape.”

Laguna Beach Coach Bob Walton has watched DeVera since her freshman year and said he has never seen her game in better shape.

“She’s really come a long way,” Walton said. “Mentally, she’s so tough, and now she’s coming to the net. She’s able to get somebody out of position and then finish the point off. But the big difference in the last three years is she has cut down on her unforced errors. If you could stay close, she used to give some points and you’d have a chance to beat her. But she doesn’t give you a thing anymore.”

Walton hinted he might move his No. 1 singles player Lindsay Weiss or No. 2 Michelle Bray to doubles because of DeVera’s dominance this season. Weiss could have faced DeVera Saturday in the third round of the individual tournament but she pulled out of the tournament because of a sore neck.

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“They are a really tough team,” Walton said. “With Faye, going into the match, it’s almost like three points for Villa Park.”


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