Year after year, the Pacific Coast League girls' tennis tournament has offered some of the highest level high school tennis in Southern California. Corona del Mar High is leaving for the Sunset League next year, but competing against tough Irvine schools like University, Beckman and Northwood has made for an elite level of competition in both singles and doubles.
Coming into the final day of this year's Pacific Coast League tournament, though, the Sea Kings pairing of junior Shaya Northrup and senior Paulina Loredo didn't need to worry about any other schools. Northrup and Loredo were about to face four of their CdM teammates in the semifinals and finals of the doubles draw on Oct. 30 at Beckman.
They only got a short break after outlasting CdM's Roxy MacKenzie and Bella McKinney, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, in a semifinal match that took more than two hours to complete. The finals opponent of top-seeded Annika Bassey and Kristina Evloeva, two singles players who teamed up for the doubles tournament, definitely seemed formidable.
It might not have been David and Goliath, but it was clear who was favored for the final.
"I didn't know they were playing together until I saw the draw," Northrup said. "I was like, 'Oh, shoot' … Going into the match, I was like, 'OK, my goal is to get two games.' I just didn't want to get 'bageled' [shut out]."
Northrup and Loredo, the Daily Pilot Athletes of the Week, did much more than just get two games. They started strong and held on to defeat Bassey and Evloeva in a pro set, 8-7 (7-5 in a tiebreaker), to become league doubles champions. Both doubles teams qualified for the CIF Southern Section Individuals tournament, which begins Nov. 20.
"It still hasn't really sunk in [that we won]," Northrup said. "It's kind of weird. Going into it, I really did not expect anything."
What CdM coach Jamie Gresh has come to expect from Northrup and Loredo, who played at No. 1 doubles for most of the season, is a sweep. They have a 31-3 record together in match play after CdM's 13-5 win over University on Friday in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match at the Claremont Club.
Northrup and Loredo were dominant in the CIF title match, earning a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 sweep.
"Their personalities match up and their games enhance each other," Gresh said. "What one is better at, the other helps out on the other end. Shaya's probably more of the back-court player of the group, while Paulina is the stronger volleyer. However, I feel like their games have rounded each other out. They've made each other better players."
The pairing worked out. For Northrup, this is her third doubles partner in three years on varsity. She played with McKinney as a freshman and then-senior Izzy Dajee last year as a sophomore.
She thought she might have a chance at playing No. 3 singles this year, but that was before Evloeva enrolled at CdM just before the school year began.
"I figured for singles, it would either be me, Paulina or Roxy," Northrup said. "I just told Jamie that maybe Paulina and I could try playing doubles together and see where it goes. We played together during tryouts, but we were so stressed out."
Loredo is in her first year playing high school tennis. She moved to Newport Beach with her family in July, after living for five years in Addison, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Paulina's younger sister Irasena is an eighth-grader at CdM.
Before living in Texas, the family lived in Mexico City, where much of Paulina's family still resides. She visits every Christmas. That's also where her tennis career started at age 10.
"I feel like I'm at home when I go back there," she said. "But I felt like I had more opportunities here, more options … It's very different [in Mexico]. You'd play against the same girls at every tournament. I felt like there was more competition when I came to the United States."
Loredo is used to playing singles, but she said she prefers doubles. She's gotten that chance this year at CdM with Northrup, and she's flourished. The duo swept in Monday's CIF Division 1 quarterfinal win over San Marino, and won two of three sets in Wednesday's tough 10-8 win over Arcadia in the semifinals.
"I feel like we've both improved a lot as a doubles team," Loredo said. "We're just being a lot more aggressive, poaching, putting it away."
Bassey, Evloeva and USC-commit Danielle Willson, who won her first league singles title this season, are the Sea Kings' big names in singles. But the play of Northrup and Loredo also has been crucial to the team's success.
For now, they are just enjoying the ride at the end of what has been a magical season for undefeated CdM. It will continue next weekend at the Southern California Regionals.
"It's actually insane," Northrup said. "Next year, when all of the starting seniors are going to be graduating, we're not going to get this kind of opportunity again. It's a really cool experience."
Born: May 16, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 5 feet 4
Coach: Jamie Gresh
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"
Favorite athletic moment: Winning the Pacific Coast League doubles title this season with partner Paulina Loredo.
Week in review: Northrup and partner Paulina Loredo won the doubles title at the Pacific Coast League girls' tennis tournament, defeating CdM teammates Kristina Evloeva and Annika Bassey 8-7 (7-5 in a tiebreaker) in the title match.
Born: March 19, 2000
Hometown: Addison, Texas
Height: 5 feet 2
Coach: Jamie Gresh
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: "The Blind Side"
Favorite athletic moment: Competing with the CdM girls' tennis team this season.
Week in review: Loredo and partner Shaya Northrup won the doubles title at the Pacific Coast League girls' tennis tournament, defeating CdM teammates Kristina Evloeva and Annika Bassey 8-7 (7-5 in a tiebreaker) in the title match.