Westlake Loses Its Grip Again in Championship


Same place. Same score. Same feelings of despair for Westlake High.

The Warriors lost to Beverly Hills, 10-8, in the Southern Section Division II boys' tennis championship Wednesday and missed out on a chance at redemption.

Westlake lost to Harvard-Westlake by the same score in last season's Division III championship at the same locale, the Thousand Oaks Racquet Club.

Grant Calkins, coaching in his final match for Westlake, didn't buy into the 10-8 jinx--"too many demons if you think that way," he said--but the loss was much harder for Westlake senior Darren Joe.

"This is 10 times worse," said Joe, who dropped his first singles set of the season. "I've always thought of finishing strong at the end, but it just didn't happen."

The teams were tied, 6-6, with one round of matches to play, but top-seeded Westlake (20-1) then lost all three of its doubles sets.

The Warriors lost seven of nine doubles sets against second-seeded Beverly Hills (21-2).

The Normans' tandem of Jeff Wang and Raymond Hekmat won all three sets at No. 3 doubles by identical 6-1 scores.

"They really won it for us," said 15th-year Beverly Hills Coach Jason Newman, who won a championship for the first time. "[Opposition scores of] one, one and one. They were key."

Joe, who played at No. 1 singles for Westlake, had been fending off his first loss for awhile.

In the semifinals against Mission Viejo, Joe rebounded from two set points and a 5-4 deficit to defeat Eric Bachelor, 7-5.

And in the quarterfinals against Burbank, Joe, who will attend Princeton in the fall, won the final two games against Ben Martin to prevail, 6-4.

This time there was no comeback.

Joe (44-1) had his first three serves broken and lost, 6-0, to Jose Lieberman, the Normans' No. 1 singles player.

"That's not showing any fight at all," Joe said. "I just got humiliated, which I never let happen to me. I was just completely off my game."

Lieberman, who has signed a letter of intent with Miami, has been hovering around the No. 10 spot in the national rankings.

The victory was more than semisweet for Lieberman--the Normans had lost in the semifinals in each of the past three seasons.

"When we finally won in the semifinals [against Sunny Hills], I knew this was our breakthrough year," Lieberman said.

Beverly Hills barely made it past Sunny Hills, tying in sets, 9-9, but winning the match on the tiebreaker, 79-73 games.

Calkins, who is stepping down after five years at Westlake to devote more time to his computer software business, said he felt for Joe.

"I wanted him to go to Princeton with a gold medal," Calkins said. "As good a kid as he is, it's a disappointment."

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