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Sage Hill boys’ tennis blanks Newport Harbor 18-0 in opener

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Sage Hill freshman singles player Grant Gallagher steps into a backhand return in a season opener at home against Newport Harbor on Tuesday in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Sage Hill School boys’ tennis team had a perfect season last year.

The Lightning went 19-0, winning the San Joaquin League and CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles along the way.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sage Hill hosted Newport Harbor in a nonleague match. The result of the season opener for both teams also ended up as perfection for the hosts.

The Lightning swept the Sailors 18-0, winning each set by a score ranging from 6-0 to 6-2.

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Sage Hill has a totally different singles lineup than last year’s CIF championship squad, as Emin Torlic and Steven Ferry were two of eight seniors to graduate and Rohun Krishnan will be playing doubles as a senior this year.

Krishnan went 51-3 at No. 3 singles last year for Sage Hill. But talented freshmen Grant Gallagher and Ian Jiang have stepped into the singles lineup, as well as junior Adam Hung.

"[Krishnan] came back to me this year as a senior,” Lightning coach Whit Kenerson said. “He said, ‘I’ve decided not to play in college, so I think I just want to enjoy it and play doubles.’ I said, ‘You know what, I want you to be happy senior year, so that’s fine.’ We’ve got two great freshmen in singles, and Adam’s always wanted to play singles, so it works out all right.

“We’re not quite as strong in singles right now, but the potential with Grant and Ian is phenomenal. I think we’ll get there, depending on how they react to playing high school tennis. I think they’ll be OK.”

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Gallagher swept 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 in his high school debut, while Jiang won all three of his sets by 6-0 scores.

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Sage Hill doubles player Rohun Krishnan, right, rips a backhand return as partner Brian Yu watches in a season opener against Newport Harbor on Tuesday in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Krishnan played at No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Brian Yu, and they also easily won twice before being subbed out.

“I think our singles lineup is still pretty solid,” Krishnan said. “We have some freshmen stepping up to the plate, and they’re going to be able to get four years in singles. I just wanted to try a different position on the team this time.”

Alan Wang won three doubles sets with partners Matthew Strok and Sahill Siddiqui, while Daniel Min and Shaan Sakraney swept at No. 3 doubles. Sakraney is the third freshman starter for the Lightning.

“It was kind of like the perfect storm [last year],” Yu said. “Our doubles was really good, and our singles was just stacked. We had Emin, Steven and Rohun, and we could just trust that all the time. This year, we lost half our team, but we’ve all improved and we’ve gained three freshmen that are solid additions to the team. I think we’re on a good path.”

Param Desagani and Vikram Sinhambhatla also substituted in to win a doubles set for the Lightning, who play at Santa Margarita on Wednesday in a nonleague match.

Newport Harbor returns four starters, coach Kristen Becwar said, including junior No. 1 singles player Prescott Cook. Jackson Page, Ben Chlarson and Julian Pearce are the other returning starters.

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“I’m really appreciative of the fact that we got to play Sage today, and we got to be challenged,” said Becwar, whose team hosts Laguna Hills in a nonleague match Thursday. “It’s only going to make us better in the long run, playing people that are better than us. I’m proud of the way my guys approached it. They saw this match as an opportunity to learn more and to get better. I thought our mental approach to this match was spot on. The boys stayed positive, stayed trying to work on things.”

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Newport Harbor doubles player Ben Chlarson hits a winning volley in a season opener against Newport Harbor on Tuesday in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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