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Sage Hill boys’ tennis uses singles strength to win CIF Division 1 playoff opener over Ayala

Several pizzas were brought out to the Sage Hill School courts Wednesday as the Lightning boys’ tennis team opened the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs against Chino Hills Ayala.

Students could take some pizza as long as they stayed to watch some of the match, Sage Hill Athletic Director Megan Cid told them. As they walked off with the slices, she quizzed them on which court they were going to watch.

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Of course, the pizza was long gone nearly three hours later as the match drew to a close.

“We didn’t get any pizza,” Sage Hill senior Steven Ferry said with a smirk. “[That’s] kind of mean. I want some pizza.”

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The Lightning still feasted in singles against Ayala. Senior Emin Torlic, Ferry and junior Rohun Krishnan all swept as Sage Hill earned a 13-5 victory.

The Lightning hit the road for the second round Friday to play Santa Barbara San Marcos, an 11-7 winner over Newbury Park in another first-round match Wednesday.

Sage Hill (15-0), the San Joaquin League champion which is in its second year in Division 1, is a win away from making the quarterfinals for the first time in this division. The Lightning made the Division 2 semifinals in 2017, and lost to Corona del Mar last year in the second round of Division 1.

Sage Hill School's Robert Gerschultz, right, scores as No. 1 doubles teammate Adam Hung looks on against Chino Hills Ayala during the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs in Newport Beach on Wednesday.
Sage Hill School's Robert Gerschultz, right, scores as No. 1 doubles teammate Adam Hung looks on against Chino Hills Ayala during the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs in Newport Beach on Wednesday. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“With eight seniors in the top group, it’s their last year to go do well in the playoffs,” Lightning coach Whit Kenerson said. “Now is the year for us to do something.”

Kenerson said that Ayala (13-2), the second-place team from the Palomares League, stacked its doubles lineup against Sage Hill. But the Lightning still won four of the nine doubles sets. The teams of sophomore Adam Hung and senior Robert Gerschultz, senior Aaron Bergen and junior Daniel Min, as well as senior Matthew Strok and sophomore Alan Wang, each swept Ayala’s No. 3 doubles team.

Sage Hill’s starting No. 2 doubles team, junior Brian Yu and senior Ryan Ha, also won their opening-round set. They defeated Ayala’s David Jin and Alex Chen by a 6-3 score.

“A lot of teams are loading up their doubles against us,” Kenerson said. “That’s what Foothill did against us. It’s good for our doubles, they’re getting stronger. It’s tough competition, which we need at this time of the season. The singles guys, all three of them are playing really well.”

Sage Hill School's Steven Ferry hits in No. 2 singles play against Chino Hills Ayala during the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs in Newport Beach on Wednesday.
Sage Hill School's Steven Ferry hits in No. 2 singles play against Chino Hills Ayala during the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs in Newport Beach on Wednesday. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Ferry came the closest to losing a set, but the San Joaquin League singles champion came through in the second round for a 6-4 win over Ayala’s Dylan Ojeda. By the time Krishnan beat Ojeda 6-2 in the third round, the Ayala sophomore was impressed.

“You guys are deep,” Ojeda said as he made his way to the net to shake Krishnan’s hand following the set.

Sage Hill’s singles players have already demonstrated success against strong competition this season. Torlic made the round of 16 in the CIF Singles division of the prestigious Ojai Tennis Tournament last week, while Ferry and Krishnan advanced to the same round in CIF Doubles.

“I think our singles [lineup] is going to be super, super-strong going into this next round,” Krishnan said. “We’re just going to have to make sure that we get all our matches and take as many games as possible.

“I think we can make a really deep run this year, especially since the top eight teams went into the open division. We’ve got a really good chance.”

The only thing the Lightning players didn’t have a chance at after their match was any pizza.

Krishnan understood.

“It’s a Sage tradition to go somewhere if they ever say they have free pizza, and take all of the boxes and leave,” he said.

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