Corona del Mar High coach Jamie Gresh has grown accustomed to assembling tough schedules for his girls’ tennis team during the regular season.
Often, the result can be a rematch or two once the playoffs come around.
Gresh’s schedule-making played no part in the rematch that the Sea Kings faced on Wednesday. Nevertheless, Gresh was not surprised to meet fellow Sunset Conference rival Huntington Beach once the Oilers appeared in their half of the draw.
The Oilers had shown enough in the first meeting that Gresh felt compelled to make a lineup change. His players answered the call.
The top-seeded Sea Kings swept all nine doubles sets, defeating Huntington Beach 13-5 in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal home match.
The Sea Kings (17-5) will face Los Angeles Marlborough (17-2) in the final at the Claremont Club on Friday at 11 a.m. Marlborough beat Camarillo 11-7 in the other semifinal.
Gresh called getting to the Claremont Club a “big accomplishment,” but he also told his team that the job has yet to be completed.
“We want to finish strong,” said Gresh, whose team won the section crown in 2017. “I think we’ve done a great job this postseason of playing really well. We want to play our best in the final on Friday, for sure, and I feel like the girls will.”
In a Sunset Conference crossover match on Oct. 3, the Sea Kings beat the Oilers 11-7. It was not a comfortable margin, especially with Huntington Beach getting deep into several of the doubles sets.
On Wednesday, the Sea Kings moved Alden Mulroy from singles to doubles, teaming her with Tori Varela for just the second time this season. The duo went on to win their sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
“Last time we played [Huntington Beach], I had been in singles,” Mulroy said. “I feel like that didn’t go over real well. I went 0-3. I didn’t win.
“When [Gresh] put me in doubles, it kind of shifted the lineup. The lineup was smart today.”
Varela beamed after the match, filled with the excitement of advancing to the CIF final for the first time in her career. The junior said she felt confident about playing with Mulroy, despite the deficit of match-play experience with her partner this season.
“I think we played pretty good, actually,” Varela said. “I wasn’t surprised that we played well, though. I thought we were ready for it and that we made a good team last time, too.”
CdM’s top doubles pairing of Reece Kenerson and Jane Paulsen dropped just one game across three sets. The No. 2 doubles team of Ashley Thomas and Cate Montgomery narrowly picked up wins of 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
A key moment in the match came at the end of the first round. Hannah Jervis defeated Cindy Huynh 6-3, giving CdM a 5-1 lead after the first rotation.
“I was really nervous,” Jervis said. “I knew it was a close match, and I didn’t know what the score was with everybody else, like I did last time when it was super close.
“I kind of just thought to myself that, ‘I have to win this match for my team,’ because I felt that we would need it. That was kind of my mindset, getting the win for the team.”
Jervis won two singles sets for the Sea Kings. Kristina Veskovic and Cate Wood each won one set.
“The first round was just pivotal in getting us out to a big lead, and then we kind of took advantage of that,” Gresh said. “I always tell the girls, ‘You need to be at your best when your best is needed,’ and they were today.”
Kaytlin Taylor swept her singles sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to lead Huntington Beach (19-5). Huynh recorded the other two set victories for the Oilers in singles play.
Oilers coach Suzanne DeVries had been surprised to find her team promoted to Division 1 after the Oilers won the Division 3 championship last year. As the season went on, however, DeVries was telling her girls that they belonged on that stage.
“It was absolutely incredible how much they rose to this occasion,” DeVries said. “I honestly kept reminding them, ‘We’re a Division 1 team. We are a legitimate Division 1 team.’”
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