Hallie Tran has been improving in singles throughout the season for the Costa Mesa High girls’ tennis team, but one area she has struggled with has been putting away the short ball.
Tran has still racked up the wins in Orange Coast League play, but instead of being satisfied, the junior took the extra step. She said she stayed after practice Wednesday to work on the shot with Mustangs coaches Ryan and Meg Broccolo.
“They see that I struggle with short balls,” Tran said. “They have helped me with my perspective on the game, helped improve my shots.”
Coaches and players who care have helped the Mustangs’ ascension this season. The extra practice worked for Tran on Thursday, as she swept at No. 2 singles in a key Orange Coast League match against Calvary Chapel.
The reward for the hard work ultimately is a league title. Costa Mesa beat Calvary Chapel 13-5 at home, clinching at least a share of their first title since they won the Golden West League in 2002.
That’s a long time ago. Six of the Mustangs’ nine starters were born in that year, 2002. Now the Mustangs (13-2, 8-0 in league), who have two league matches remaining, will try to clinch the outright title Tuesday at Saddleback. They beat Saddleback 17-1 in the teams’ first meeting Sept. 27.
In time, it will sink in, but I still can’t believe that we did it. I think we’re all still in shock.
Costa Mesa is riding a 12-match winning streak and also has clinched a CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoff berth, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2011. The Mustangs finished fourth in the league last season.
“In time, it will sink in, but I still can’t believe that we did it,” Tran said. “I think we’re all still in shock.”
They did it with a convincing effort against second-place Calvary Chapel (6-6, 6-2). Costa Mesa won eight of nine singles matches, including sweeps from Tran and Leslie Delgado. Rachel Pham won twice.
Tran won twice and Delgado just once when Costa Mesa edged Calvary Chapel 10-8 in the teams’ first meeting Sept. 25. The Mustangs came out strong in the rematch, taking a 6-0 lead after the first round.
Delgado beat Adrienne Dwyer 6-4 at No. 1 singles, while Tran beat Halle James by the same score at No. 2 singles. At No. 1 doubles, Costa Mesa co-captains Amber Lee and Alexis Votran rallied from a 3-0 deficit to edge Calvary Chapel’s Ashley Fabella and Deborah Barnes in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-5).
“That first round, our girls just came out of the gates like a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby,” Ryan Broccolo said. “They came out on fire. You know they want it, but it’s always interesting how people channel that energy. Sometimes they come out nervous and have slow starts. As a whole, the team just came out and showed how badly they wanted it.”
Lee and Votran won twice at No. 1 doubles for Costa Mesa, as did Megan Tran and Sophia Catania at No. 2 doubles. Jasmine Au and Erin Rodriguez added a win at No. 3 doubles.
Fabella and Barnes won twice in doubles for the Eagles, as did Jacqueline Corsini and Britney Tuong. But Costa Mesa was simply too strong.
“We needed to be 3-3 [after the first round],” Calvary Chapel coach Tim Linn said. “They’re just a little bit better. Their girls have just an ounce more confidence. They’re undefeated [in the league], and they’re at home.”
Costa Mesa concludes league play at Saddleback, then at home against rival Estancia next Thursday.
“[The league title] means a lot, because everyone put in a bunch of effort,” Delgado said. “The coaches were always practicing with us, telling us to play our best. It’s amazing to actually see us win and be No. 1, when last year we were fourth place [in the league].”