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Huntington Beach girls’ tennis edges Laguna Beach on games in Wave League opener

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Huntington Beach’s Haley Forth hits a backhand in doubles play during a Wave League match at Laguna Beach on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Would senior Ella Pachl play in singles or doubles for the Laguna Beach High girls’ tennis team in Thursday’s Wave League opener?

This was the question that Huntington Beach coach Suzanne DeVries wanted to know before setting her lineup. Pachl, a UC San Diego commit, is a top returning singles player but has played doubles this season due to a shoulder injury.

“In the end, I was like, ‘I’m not going to worry about what Ella’s doing,’” DeVries said. “I was just going to play them straight up. I really thought about it a lot, and thought I had to play them straight up.”

Pachl stayed in doubles, where she and partner Natty Cenan swept. But Huntington Beach’s depth was still good enough to earn a 9-9 (78-68 on games) win at Laguna Beach.

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The Oilers (11-4) and Breakers (5-6) met for the first time since last year’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 title match, which was won 10-8 by Huntington Beach for the first CIF title in program history. But it was the Breakers who won the inaugural Wave League title last year, splitting two league matches with the Oilers.

Haley Forth switched from singles to doubles midway through the season for the Huntington Beach High girls’ tennis team, but she hit the second-serve return Friday afternoon with the aggressiveness of a singles player.

Every time the programs have played, it seems to be close. They were tied 3-3 after the first round Thursday, and 6-6 after the second round.

“It’s definitely a rivalry,” Breakers coach Rick Conkey said. “It’s great. It’s fun to watch them competing.”

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But it’s Huntington Beach which will host Edison on Tuesday with early first-place standing on the line. The Chargers beat Marina 14-4 in their league opener Thursday.

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Huntington Beach’s Cindy Huynh hits a solid serve in a Wave League match at Laguna Beach on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Junior Kaytlin Taylor played a large part in Huntington Beach’s games advantage over the Breakers, sweeping in singles in dominant fashion. She beat Chloe Gagne 6-0, defending league singles champion Sarah MacCallum 6-0 and Katelyn Smith 6-1.

“I thought it was going to be some of the tougher matches I’ve played this season, so I came in pretty ready to play,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t sure if Ella was going to play singles or not, so I was preparing to play all three of them ... [Smith] played really well. It was definitely a lot closer [than the score]. The games were close, the points were close. She’s gotten a lot better since the last time I saw her play in a tournament, so it was good to see.”

Arianne Vethan and Maggie Rae Walker, who were only paired together recently, won two doubles sets for Huntington Beach from the No. 2 position. Their 6-4 first-round win over Vanessa Gee and Faith Ackley was important for the Oilers, who swept Laguna Beach’s No. 3 doubles team. The Oilers teams of Alissa Wong and Haley Forth, as well as Sophie Jin-Ngo and Gennifer Wolfe, also picked up victories.

Sophomores Cindy Huynh and Solaya Han each won just once in singles, as each was beaten by both MacCallum and Smith, who both won twice. Besides the sweep from Pachl and Cenan, Gee and Ackley also won twice at No. 2 doubles for the Breakers, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 2. Ackley, a junior transfer from Crean Lutheran, recently became eligible.

“She’ll be stronger next time,” said Conkey, whose Breakers host Marina on Tuesday. “She’ll have more match play experience ... [but] we have a lot to learn still in doubles. We’re going to be working on the doubles. I think we could have done a little bit better today.”

Vethan said she believes Huntington Beach, which moved up from Division 3 and is unranked in Division 1, is even better than last year’s CIF championship team. The Oilers lost 11-7 to perennial power Corona del Mar, ranked No. 8 in Division 1, in a Sunset Conference crossover match on Oct. 3. Last year, they fell 18-0 to the Sea Kings.

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They were certainly glad to escape Laguna Beach on Thursday with a close victory.

“Sarah and Katelyn are strong, seriously, and Ella is strong in dubs,” DeVries said. “I’m really thrilled with our win right now. I think we’re very closely matched up.”

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Laguna Beach’s Ella Pachl hits a winning volley as doubles partner Natty Cenan backs her up in a Wave League home match against Huntington Beach on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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