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Sage Hill beats Beckman to cap undefeated boys' tennis season with CIF Division 1 title

Emin Torlic served up a big ace, and the Sage Hill School boys’ tennis senior knew what he had accomplished Friday afternoon at the Claremont Club.

He let out a big yell before coming to the net to shake the hand of Beckman’s Dongkyu Kim.

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“Esketit!” Torlic screamed out, echoing the name of a song by rapper Lil Pump.

“I wanted to scream and make sure that we all knew that we had just won,” Torlic said later.

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Each of his Lightning teammates on the surrounding courts knew what it meant, as in “let’s get it,” the CIF crown.

“My morale was heightened by that,” junior Rohun Krishnan said.

Torlic had won the 10th and clinching set in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 final against top-seeded Beckman. Sage Hill went on to beat the Patriots 13-5, clinching the second CIF championship in program history and an undefeated season.

Sage Hill School singles player Emin Torlic returns the ball against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday.
Sage Hill School singles player Emin Torlic returns the ball against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Sage Hill (19-0), the San Joaquin League champion, joins the 2011 Division 3 champions. This year’s boys’ tennis team is also the first Sage Hill team in any sport to win a Division 1 championship.

It was an unlikely run to the title for the Lightning, who were unseeded. But they were also unmatched in their five-match run to the title, in terms of their singles strength.

Torlic, bound for Loyola Marymount University, went 14-1 in singles in the postseason. He swept 6-1, 6-0, 6-0 on Friday. Senior Steven Ferry, who will play at Chapman University, swept 6-0, 6-3, 6-1 and also went 14-1 during the CIF run. And Krishnan, who swept 6-0, 6-4, 6-2 against Beckman, went 13-2.

“We had really strong horses at the top, and they were awesome all season,” first-year Sage Hill coach Whit Kenerson said. “They’re very solid tournament players, very capable of playing in college … I was surprised [with Friday’s 13-5 score]. I thought it would be really close, but our doubles played well today. Our doubles won a couple of big sets right off the top, which put the pressure on them.”

Beckman (18-9) tried to improve its doubles strength in the final, dropping No. 2 singles player Mason Tran into doubles. But the Lightning still led throughout.

Sage Hill School doubles player Alan Wang returns the ball as Matthew Strok looks on in the background against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday.
Sage Hill School doubles player Alan Wang returns the ball as Matthew Strok looks on in the background against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Sage Hill took a 4-2 lead after the first round, which featured a big 6-4 win at No. 3 doubles by Sage Hill senior Matthew Strok and sophomore Alan Wang against Beckman’s Jeffrey Besen and Ben Refael.

The Lightning then won five sets in the second round, taking a 9-3 advantage after Krishnan finished off a 6-4 win over Beckman’s top singles player, freshman Daniel Choi.

“It was kind of unexpected, but at the same time, I was confident in my team that we could go far,” Torlic said. “This was just much farther than expected. As soon as we got up 4-2, I was like, ‘We can do this.’ Then [in the second round] we went 5-1. The more we played, the more confident we got.”

As Sage Hill School doubles player Robert Gerschultz ducks, Adam Hung returns the ball against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday.
As Sage Hill School doubles player Robert Gerschultz ducks, Adam Hung returns the ball against Beckman in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match at the Claremont Club on Friday. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Sage Hill’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Robert Gerschultz and sophomore Adam Hung won twice against Beckman. It was Gerschultz and Hung who also came back for two important set wins in a 9-9 (75-70 on games) win at Santa Barbara San Marcos in the second round on May 3.

In Wednesday’s 9-9 (80-63 on games) win over Ventura in the semifinals, it was senior Ryan Ha and junior Brian Yu who had a key doubles victory.

“Our matches in CIF have been super-close, but it’s always the same strategy,” Krishnan said. “We always come out there heavy with singles. As long as our singles gets more games, even if our doubles [teams] lose every single match, we’re still going to win … [But] in this tournament, sometimes when our singles went down and we felt like we completely lost it, some random doubles win would come out of nowhere. It was incredible.”

It all added up to a CIF championship for Sage Hill.

“We’re just fortunate to have eight seniors on the team, to be able to take advantage of that for this year,” Kenerson said. “The kids played great, and it’s something they’ll never forget. Who knows if and when Sage Hill will ever win a D1 title? We just hope we can keep building on it and keep bringing good kids into the program.”

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