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Corona del Mar girls’ tennis edges Peninsula to stay undefeated

Louise Eriksson of Corona del Mar battles her Peninsula opponent at the net during Tuesday's nonleague match.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Corona del Mar and Palos Verdes Peninsula high school girls’ tennis teams are typically two of the top teams in the CIF Southern Section, year in and year out.

The strengths of the Sea Kings and Panthers manifested in different ways Tuesday in a nonleague match at the CdM courts.

Visiting Peninsula showed top-line strength, getting sweeps at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.

But the depth of the Sea Kings won out.

Corona del Mar led throughout a 10-8 victory to remain undefeated in the early season.

Junior Sophia Andrei-Birca and freshmen Emilie Lew and Polina Briggs each won a pair of singles sets for CdM (5-0). In doubles, seniors Cate Montgomery and Lauren Jones teamed to win a pair of sets.

Corona del Mar's Shea Tomac runs down a volley as teammate Louise Eriksson backs her up at the baseline.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The pairings of seniors Louise Eriksson and Shea Tomac, as well as junior Sasha Fellner and freshman Sasha Briggs, each won one doubles set for the victors.

“I’m super-proud of the way we played today,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh said. “I thought we played very good doubles to win four [sets]. They had three very good teams out there, so to win four was very good. And then sweeping their No. 2 and 3 players, I think our girls did a good job in singles and stayed focused over there.”

Peninsula, last year’s Open Division runner-up, fell to 0-2 in dual matches this season despite Isa Bringas’ easy sweep at No. 1 singles (6-0, 6-2, 6-2). Sarah Hodges and Kayden Roxas had a similarly easy time at No. 1 doubles, with wins by 6-1, 6-2 and 6-1 scores.

Corona del Mar still managed to take a 4-2 sets lead after the first round, and a 7-5 lead after the second round. The Sea Kings clinched the match in the final round, with a 10-6 advantage before Peninsula won the last two doubles sets on court.

Montgomery and Jones, each four-year varsity players, have enjoyed teaming up for their senior season for the Sea Kings. They improved to 12-2 this season. Montgomery was the Surf League doubles champion last year with graduate Jane Paulsen, and they advanced to the CIF Individuals round of 16.

Sophia Andrei-Birca of Corona del Mar hits a hard forehand during Tuesday's match against Peninsula.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Jones said their personalities are different. So are their games, with her staying mainly on the baseline and Montgomery at the net. The pairing is working for both their individual talents, as well as the team’s performance.

CdM also has competitive victories over two Irvine schools, University and Portola, so far.

“It’s definitely different from any other year for us, but it’s come together well,” Montgomery said. “It’s just deeper. I think it’s almost better not having a [stud player].”

Longtime Peninsula coach Mike Hoeger said he has a freshman, Iva Jovic, who will be joining the team this week. She has the potential to be possibly the top player in CIF; Jovic recently won two rounds at the U.S. Open juniors tournament.

With Jovic, the dynamic of Tuesday’s match easily could have changed. But Hoeger still gave credit to the Sea Kings, particularly their doubles teams.

“Jamie gets a lot out of his doubles,” he said. “He’s always got his doubles ready to play. They don’t always have high UTR [rankings], but they always perform. They’re not afraid to get up to the net and pick off balls, and with girls, that’s a huge thing.”

Corona del Mar's Cate Montgomery and Lauren Jones, from left, play doubles during Tuesday's match against Peninsula.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

CdM continues nonleague action Thursday, when it hosts Mater Dei. Gresh said he expects that to be another challenging match.

Then again, challenging matches are exactly what he wants before Surf League play begins.

“It’s good to play all these tough teams,” he said. “You kind of see where you are, and it’s way more exciting when the sets are competitive and the level is high.”

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