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Marina’s Mika Ikemori is CIF girls’ tennis finalist

Marina singles player Mika Ikemori returns a volley against Sunny Hills' Daniela Borruel.
Marina singles player Mika Ikemori returns a volley against Sunny Hills’ Daniela Borruel during the CIF Southern Section Individuals singles finals on Thursday at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

There are nearly 600 member schools in the CIF Southern Section.

Out of the thousands of girls’ tennis players across the section, only two made it to Thursday’s CIF Southern Section Individuals singles title match.

One of them was Marina High junior Mika Ikemori.

Ikemori’s season to remember concluded with her as a finalist, as she ran into a red-hot freshman in the title match at Whittier Narrows Center.

In a showdown between the tournament’s top two seeds, Sunny Hills freshman Daniela Borruel topped Ikemori 6-3, 7-5 for the Individuals singles title.

Even prior to the final match, Ikemori knew what it meant to be there.

“It’s super-cool,” she said. “I mean, CIF, that’s the big one. I’m really happy that I fought out all my matches, because every one of them was tough.”

Borruel, who will turn 15 later this month, was aggressive in the final against Ikemori. But after winning the first set, she fell behind 5-2.

Borruel rallied to win the last five games of the match, although Ikemori saved two match points before Borruel could serve it out at 6-5.

“I think I stopped moving my feet a little bit, and she definitely started playing better,” Ikemori said. “I think I could have kept the intensity up a little bit more.

“She didn’t make many mistakes. She’s really good at building herself back up, so she can recompose herself. But it was a good match, and congrats to Daniela.”

Borruel said staying aggressive and moving forward made her effective on her swinging volleys.

“I told myself to stay in the moment,” Borruel said. “I’ve had these experiences before ... I think I had the composure to come back, the fighting spirit to come back. There’s always a chance.”

Marina singles player Mika Ikemori is embraced by her mother Lynn at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center.
Marina singles player Mika Ikemori’s mother, Lynn, embraces her after she received the runner-up plaque on Thursday at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center. Ikemori competed against Sunny Hills’ Daniela Borruel during the CIF Southern Section Individuals singles finals.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

In the semifinals, Ikemori topped No. 3-seeded Nadia Kojonroj of Troy, 6-3, 6-2. She improved to 3-0 lifetime against Kojonroj, a left-handed player, the first two wins coming in junior tournaments.

“I knew it was going to be really hard,” Ikemori said. “Every time I play Nadia, it’s tough. I wanted to do my best and stay in it point by point, not worry about what might happen.”

Ikemori broke Kojonroj’s serve at 3-2 in the first set and took the early advantage. But after Kojonroj held serve to open the second set, Ikemori got locked in a long battle on her own serve.

The game took nearly 15 minutes before Ikemori held serve. She then quickly broke Kojonroj’s serve in the next game and seized back momentum of the match.

“I think it was really important to hold,” Ikemori said. “I think that game set the tone for the rest of the match. When you have those games, you feel relief, like, ‘Thank God I pulled that out.’ But if you lose the game, you’re just really mad at yourself and you feel really deflated. It was really important that I won that game. I didn’t want her to get the opportunity to go up 3-0 with her serving.”

Ikemori said overall she enjoyed playing in CIF Individuals. She became the second Marina girls’ tennis player to advance to the finals, joining Carrie Crisell in 1985.

“It’s great being a finalist in CIF,” she said. “It’s an honor to represent Marina and come this far. I’m proud of Daniela, but I’m happy with it. Obviously a little disappointed, but I’m still proud of myself.”

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