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Vaughan Pulls Right Strings to Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nina Vaughan of Corona del Mar was down to her last racket, and her strength was ebbing away at the start of a third-set tiebreaker.

But each held up Saturday in 90-degree heat at Los Caballeros Sports Village.

Vaughan went on to defeat Ilona Kordonskaya of Los Angeles, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), in the girls’ 16s tennis semifinals at the Southern California junior sectionals.

“She seemed to be in real good condition, and I seemed to be fading a little,” Vaughan said. “But it’s all heart at that point, and I think I wanted it a little more than she did this time.”

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Vaughan’s mother was looking for another spare racket after five broken strings earlier in the match, but it wasn’t needed.

Vaughan, seeded eighth, dominated the tournament’s fifth-seeded player in the tiebreaker. “I guess it was the heat that caused all the strings to break,” she said. “That happens to me sometimes in hot weather.”

Vaughan’s victory set up an all-Orange County final today. Unseeded Katey Becker of Orange overwhelmed Helena Horak of Westlake Village in the other semifinal, 6-2, 6-2.

Vaughan had two match points in the 12th game, but lost both, forcing the tiebreaker. She said an earlier third-set tiebreaker victory over Kordonskaya helped her confidence. “I’m usually pretty good in that situation,” Vaughan said.

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Vaughan expects a “friendly” final against Becker. “She’s taken out some good players here,” said Vaughan, “but we’re friends, and we’re going to play doubles together at the nationals.”

Becker will have a chance to win her first major junior title. “We played earlier this year, and she won in two close sets, but it will be fun to play against her again,” Becker said.

In one of the day’s other top matches, a semifinal between two Fullerton players in the boys’ 18s, Joseph Gilbert ended Ryan Moore’s resurgence, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Moore, unseeded, won three qualifying matches and defeated two players who had beaten him earlier this season, including top-seeded Andrew Scorteanu of Palm Springs.

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Gilbert, who played three years for Sunny Hills High but spent this past year in independent studies while being coached by Paul Hubbard in Sacramento, showed off a change in his game. “I used to serve and volley on just about every point, but I’m staying back more now,” Gilbert said.

It worked well. Gilbert was at his best in the second-set tiebreaker, rolling after a 4-1 lead.

“I think both of us were a little tired,” Gilbert said. “I had to really train hard in the last week to get ready. I had a strained groin injury two weeks ago, and had to work hard to get back in shape. I didn’t want to go three sets. He’s a good three-set player. But he had to play a lot of matches this week.”

Gilbert will meet Trent Miller of San Diego in today’s finals.

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Notes

Taylor Dent of Newport Beach defeated Phillip King of Long Beach in a boys’ 16s semifinal, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Drew Hoskins of Rossmoor lost in the semifinals of the boys’ 14s Saturday to top-seeded Nicholas Weiss of Calabasas, 6-2, 6-0. Caylan Leslie of Newport Beach lost to Jieun Jacobs of Valencia in the girls’ 14s.


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