The Corona del Mar High girls’ tennis team scheduled a tough nonleague schedule this year, like always.
The problem was that the Sea Kings lacked the experience of prior years. They had nine first-year varsity players on their 17-athlete roster.
So CdM suffered through an unheard of four-match losing streak, dropping nonleague matches against Studio City Campbell Hall, Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa and rival University. Senior Ashley Thomas called it a reality check.
“It was rough for us, and the morale was kind of low,” Thomas said. “But we got into league and we started winning a lot more and started playing better, in my opinion. The more matches we played, we just kept getting better, working more as a team and getting to know each other better. Yeah, we’re doing a lot better now.”
The Surf League has been a different story for CdM, which appears well on its way to a second straight league title. The Sea Kings routed rival Newport Harbor 14-4 on the road Tuesday to open up the second half of league play.
CdM, ranked No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, remained undefeated with two league matches remaining. The Sea Kings (12-5, 4-0 in league) can clinch at least a share of the title with a win at last-place Fountain Valley (0-4 in league) on Thursday.
Sophomore Kristina Veskovic earned a singles sweep for CdM. She was the only player who coach Jamie Gresh kept in all three rounds, with his team up 11-1 after two rounds and already having clinched the victory.
Hannah Jervis won twice in singles before being subbed out, and Alden Mulroy won once for CdM.
“Personally, the more we play, it’s interesting to see how my match toughness has developed,” Veskovic said. “I always love the tougher matches, playing University and Campbell Hall. I just think it was really nice to get exposed to those good teams, and hopefully we meet again and we get to play our best.”
The CdM doubles teams of Reece Kenerson and Jane Paulsen, Ashley Thomas and Cate Montgomery, as well as Tori Varela and Olivia Sipiora, all won twice against Newport Harbor (7-10, 1-3) before they were subbed out.
The Sea Kings’ experience gap is shown in the doubles pairing of Thomas, a senior, and Montgomery, a freshman.
“I was frightened at first,” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be able to get along with a freshman,’ to be honest. But Cate is so mature, and she’s such a great player. Her volleys are so good, and it’s so easy to work with her.”
Sydnee Spirlin and Irasema Loredo subbed in during the third round to earn singles wins for CdM.
Newport Harbor’s only win in the first two rounds came from No. 1 singles player Kristin Lindh, who hung on to beat Mulroy 6-4 in the second round.
“That was a huge win for her mentally, especially having [Mulroy] come back and get her foot back in the set there,” Sailors coach Kristen Becwar said.
"[Lindh] did such a good job of just staying even keel, not getting ahead of herself and just keeping her mind at a ‘love-love’ mindset. She took it one point at a time, and I was really proud of her. She’s been playing really well, and I feel like both her tennis and her mental game came together in that set.”
Newport Harbor also got three doubles wins in the third round. Amra Barton and Talia Baia won at No. 1 doubles, as did Avery Wooden and Trish Harano at No. 2 doubles and Riley DeCinces and Bree Clark at No. 3.
The Sailors host second-place Los Alamitos (3-1 in league) on Thursday and will be looking to avenge an 11-7 loss in the first round of league on Oct. 15.
“We’re definitely looking forward to Thursday, and in my eyes, today was the best match we could get leading up to that Thursday match,” Becwar said. “You’re only going to get better playing at a higher level of tennis, and CdM always brings that.”
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