Corona del Mar High tennis players Kristina Evloeva and Roxy MacKenzie consider themselves good friends, but they had never played doubles before heading into the postseason this year.
Evloeva and MacKenzie thought it would be fun to try, plus fate intervened. The weekend before the Surf League girls’ tennis finals, Evloeva suffered a minor back injury playing in a United States Tennis Assn. Level 4 tournament in Irvine.
Evloeva didn’t really want to play singles in the postseason at less than full strength. She teamed up with MacKenzie, a versatile player who has played both singles and doubles during her four-year varsity career at CdM.
They steamrolled their way to the league doubles title before making a deep run in the CIF Southern Section Individuals tournament, though not quite as deep as they would have liked. Evloeva and MacKenzie, the No. 2 seeds, were upset by Jordan Hickey and Arianna Stavropoulos of Los Angeles Marlborough 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals on Nov. 30 at Seal Beach Tennis Center.
Evloeva and MacKenzie failed to convert three set points in the first set and ultimately lost.
“They just didn’t get the first set,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh said. “I feel like the first set dictated what was going to happen … they tightened up and that team played a little bit better in that moment. They were right where they wanted to be. They were close but they just didn’t get over the finish line, and that happens in tennis.”
Evloeva and MacKenzie did not make the final and get a board up at the CdM tennis courts to commemorate that accomplishment, but their leadership throughout the season was evident. Evloeva, a UC Davis commit, was a rock at No. 1 singles with a 34-4 record during the season. MacKenzie, who said Tuesday that she has verbally committed to play at Butler University, played No. 3 singles throughout the year.
They were senior leaders on a team that lost several of them from last year’s undefeated CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship squad. Two-time Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year Danielle Willson graduated and went to USC, while Annika Bassey (Harvard) and Paulina Loredo (Rhode Island) also graduated and are now playing college tennis.
“I felt like there was a lot of pressure, especially coming as a No. 1 after [Willson],” Evloeva said. “She was just so amazing last year. I was really nervous about that, but I was just excited because it was my last year and I wanted to enjoy it. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, but I definitely was nervous.”
The Sea Kings, who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinals and CIF Southern California Regional semifinals this season, still had a singles lineup with three future college players. Senior transfer Janie Marcus, headed to Pomona-Pitzer, manned the No. 2 spot.
Evloeva still made it further in CIF Individuals than last year, when she and Bassey lost in the doubles quarterfinals. MacKenzie was making her first CIF Individuals appearance, after losing in the Pacific Coast League doubles semifinals last year with Bella McKinney. They finished with a 7-1 record in the postseason.
“We still tried really hard, and the Marlborough girls were really good,” Evloeva said. “They were steady. At the same time, I feel like if we were playing our best tennis, we could have won that match. It’s hard, because we were so close to making it to the finals, but I feel like we had a good year. It was really fun … It was good having our best year for our last year.”
MacKenzie expressed satisfaction in her career at CdM. She, McKinney and Shaya Northrup were all four-year varsity players. This year, they got to be senior leaders and role models for the two freshmen on varsity, Jane Paulsen and Kristina Veskovic. Paulsen made noise as she was a Surf League singles finalist and made the second round of the Individuals tournament.
“I always remember that I thought the older girls were really good at tennis,” MacKenzie said. “I was like, ‘Dang, they hit the ball so hard.’”
Evloeva and MacKenzie turned into the big ball-strikers for the Sea Kings this season. And though they came up a bit short of their goal together, they helped lead CdM to another successful season, including its sixth straight section semifinal appearance.
“They both had a good year in singles, and it was exciting for them to play doubles together,” Gresh said. “Making semis is a good accomplishment, it’s just tough … I feel for them. Their goal was to make the final, and they were seeded No. 2. I feel like they were playing good enough to make the final, it just didn’t happen. It wasn’t based on lack of effort or hustle or determination. They just played a tricky opponent that day.”
Born: May 16, 2000
Hometown: Shadrinsk, Russia
Height: 5 feet 9
Coach: Jamie Gresh
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “A Star Is Born”
Favorite athletic moment: Helping CdM win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF Southern California Regional titles last season.
Week in review: Evloeva and partner Roxy MacKenzie advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Individuals doubles tournament.
Born: March 13, 2001
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 5 feet 7
Coach: Jamie Gresh
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “The Amazing Spider-Man”
Favorite athletic moment: Winning the consolation title in the girls’ 16s at the USTA Southern California Junior Sectionals in 2017.