There was little left to the imagination when the Corona del Mar High girls’ tennis team traveled for its CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinal match.
The Sea Kings were headed to take on an opponent they knew better than most. They were going to face University, a longtime rival from the Pacific Coast League.
There would be no surprises, albeit the standard tinkering of lineups took place.
Sea Kings coach Jamie Gresh dropped Roxanne MacKenzie into doubles, and right away, he knew that his team would most likely have to secure 10 sets.
In the end, CdM came up a little short. University got sweeps from singles ace Camille Brown and the No. 1 doubles team of Mya Wang and Emily Markus, keying a 10-8 victory for the host Trojans on Wednesday.
Top-seeded University will be playing in its sixth section final as a program. The Trojans (17-0) have never won a section championship in girls’ tennis.
Friday’s final at the Claremont Club will feature University against No. 2 North Hollywood Campbell Hall, which edged No. 3 Arcadia 10-8 in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Kristina Evloeva, the Sea Kings’ top singles player, slotted into the No. 3 singles spot. That put her up against Brown in the second round of match play.
Their set proved to be a pivotal one, as they remained the only ones on court with University clinging to a 6-5 sets advantage. From 3-3 onward, neither player held serve, though Evloeva had two chances to serve out the set.
Brown took care of the first point of the tiebreaker on her own serve, and the momentum quickly swung in her favor. She jumped out to a 6-1 lead following the changeover.
Evloeva battled, erasing three set points, but she sent a forehand long on the fourth set point. Brown won the set by a score of 7-6 (4).
“Probably the biggest set of the day came down to Kristina versus Cami,” Gresh said. “She served for it twice at 5-4 and 6-5. Cami just played really good defense, and she played really tough down the stretch.
“Kristina put everything into that and just came up a little bit short.”
Evloeva dropped just three games in winning her other two sets, but the Sea Kings were unable to break through in a significant manner in singles otherwise. Janie Marcus won one of her three sets, giving CdM three singles victories for the day.
Jane Lee recorded a pair of wins in singles for University.
The Sea Kings (18-3) had more success in doubles. The pairings of Shaya Northrup and MacKenzie, as well as Hannah Jervis and Reece Kenerson, each won two sets.
“The margins were thin today with the lineup that we played, but I felt that we competed really well as a team,” Gresh said. “On all the courts, all of the girls were playing at a really high level.
“I’m really proud of the way that we played today, the way that we committed to our shots and gave our best effort.”
Wang and Markus dropped just four games in sweeping their doubles sets for University. The Trojans’ top pairing has lost just one set all season.
“They are just super impressive,” Trojans coach John Kessler said. “They complement each other. Emily hits these really big, strong bombs, and Mya just finds her way around the net.”
MacKenzie, who will represent the Surf League with Evloeva in the CIF Individuals doubles tournament, recognized the need to make the lineup change.
“I think our main problem last time was getting sets on the doubles side because their singles are so strong,” said MacKenzie, referencing CdM’s 11-7 loss to the Trojans in a nonleague match on Sept. 18. “They have Jane Lee and Cami Brown. They’re both really strong players.
“[Gresh] wanted to put me in doubles so that we could try to get a few more sets in that area.”
Kessler did not want to take anything away from CdM’s performance on the court, but he did express dissatisfaction with the way the Open Division had been set up. The eight-team bracket had just six teams in it, leaving University a two-week period between matches before playing a high-caliber opponent in the semifinals.
After the match, Gresh told his girls a story about the CdM boys’ tennis team from 2016. In that season, CdM lost to San Marino 11-7 in the Division 1 semifinals, but it came back to beat Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula 4-3 in the CIF State Southern California Regional championship match.