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Sage Hill girls’ tennis beats rival St. Margaret’s to remains perfect in San Joaquin League

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Sage Hill’s Madison Dao, left, gets a high-five from her partner Julia Yuen during a San Joaquin League match against St. Margaret’s on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Perfection has been the standard for the Sage Hill School girls’ tennis doubles teams in San Joaquin League play this season.

Lightning coach Whit Kenerson said that the teams of Madison Dao and Julia Yuen, Kimi Reddy and Lauren Avenatti, as well as Courtney Davis and Michele Zheng, have all not lost a set in eight league matches this season.

Sage Hill made sure to keep the good times rolling Tuesday at its home courts against its biggest rival.

The Lightning again swept in doubles as they beat St. Margaret’s 12-6.

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Sage Hill (8-5, 8-0 in league) opened a two-match lead over St. Margaret’s (8-3, 6-2) with four matches remaining. The Lightning, who have won 48 straight league matches since 2014, is in the driver’s seat to win its fifth straight league title.

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Sage Hill’s Karina Grover returns a shot against St. Margaret’s Annabel Thiel in a San Joaquin League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Ever since our freshman year we’ve kind of had that reputation of winning league and doing really well,” said No. 1 singles player Karina Grover, one of five seniors in the starting lineup along with Dao, Yuen, Reddy and Miya Stauss. “Especially as seniors, it’s nice to have come full circle and have [almost] won league again, and doing it with a great team.”

The doubles play has been a key reason for the Lightning’s success. Dao and Yuen easily swept Tuesday, as did Reddy and Avenatti. But Davis and Zheng came up with two big wins to help shift the advantage to the hosts.

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Davis and Zheng beat Grace Nolet and Julia Schulze of St. Margaret’s 6-4 in the second round, helping Sage Hill open an 8-4 lead. Then, in the final set of the match completed, they rallied for a 7-5 win over the Tartans’ No. 1 team of Bella Karhalios and Alysse Pusey.

Junior Seychelle Balog and freshman Audrey Harrington both swept in singles for St. Margaret’s, as they did in the teams’ first league meeting, a 12-6 Sage Hill win at Saddleback College on Sept. 18. St. Margaret’s coach Scott Lipsky, a former professional tennis player who won the French Open mixed doubles title in 2011, said that Balog and Harrington are both undefeated in singles this season.

The Lightning sweep in doubles, beating the Tartans 12-6 to improve to 3-0 in San Joaquin League play. Sage Hill has won 43 straight league matches.

But the Lightning’s doubles prowess proved too much for the visitors, who are ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division 3, to overcome.

“I just think fundamentally, they’re just a little bit better in doubles than us,” Lipsky said. “They do the basics a little bit better than we do. There were a couple of sets, a 6-4 and a 7-5, so it’s close. They just play those bigger points just a little bit better than we do.”

Sage Hill quickly clinched the match in the third round. Stauss’ 6-0 singles win over substitute Summer Karram was the ninth point, while Reddy and Avenatti provided the 10th with a 6-0 win over St. Margaret’s substitutes Sydney Johnston and Greta Wagner.

Grover, Stauss and freshman Kana Byrd each lost twice in singles, which was again the same as the teams’ first meeting. But each was able to easily beat the St. Margaret’s No. 3 singles player.

The Lightning, who are in Division 2, are close to clinching another league title. No other team in the seven-team league has played Sage Hill closer than a 13-5 score so far.

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Sage Hill plays on the road against Connelly School on Wednesday at Anaheim Tennis Center. After league they can turn their attention to the CIF playoffs.

“There’s definitely more pressure to it, because we’re in a higher division than other sports [at Sage Hill],” Stauss said. “But I think that’s what keeps the team going. It’s good pressure, because we all want to win and keep that title.”

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Sage Hill’s Miya Stauss returns a shot against St. Margaret’s Seychelle Balog in a San Joaquin League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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