The Sage Hill School boys’ tennis team went under the radar for much of the season.
Despite having three standout singles players in seniors Emin Torlic and Steven Ferry, and junior Rohun Krishnan, Sage Hill was not ranked in CIF Southern Section Division 1 throughout the season.
No one can deny the Lightning now.
Sage Hill advanced to the Division 1 final after earning a 9-9 (80-63 on games) victory over Ventura in a semifinal match Wednesday at home.
The undefeated Lightning (18-0) will play top-seeded Beckman (18-8) for the title Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Claremont Club. They are making their second CIF title match appearance in program history; the 2011 team won the Division 3 crown.
“It’s kind of surreal for me,” said Torlic, who swept 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 on Wednesday. “I never thought this would happen, ever in my Sage Hill tennis career … As soon as we got moved up to Division 1 after that semifinal appearance [in Division 2 in 2017], I thought that was going to be the farthest I was going to go in my time at Sage. This year, we didn’t get any incoming freshmen, but I feel like everyone just improved a lot. We all became more reliable.”
Ferry swept 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 for the Lightning. Krishnan won twice by 6-0 scores, dropping his third set to Ventura’s Cody Ray Emery 6-4.
Sage Hill, which handed defending Division 3 champion Ventura (20-1) its first loss of the season, balanced that out by winning one doubles set. The Cougars stacked their doubles, coach Tracie Currie, putting singles players Ty Cohen and Hunter Leija together at the No. 3 doubles spot.
“We have really strong singles, but we knew they had singles [players] that were seniors, older,” Currie said. “It worked, in theory, but one match makes a difference. They were strong all the way through.”
Ty Cohen and Leija swept for Ventura, as did Noah Laber and Drew Worthy. But Sage Hill, which was tied 3-3 after the first round, earned its lone doubles win in the second round.
Senior Ryan Ha and junior Brian Yu rallied for a 6-4 victory over Ventura’s Chase Curry and Max Cohen.
“For the entire season, we really couldn’t find our rhythm,” Yu said. “The first match [today], we really should have won, we were just tight. We told ourselves we had nothing to lose. It was now or never, and we just went for our shots and it worked out.”
Ha and Yu were down a break of serve but won the final three games, helping Sage Hill take a 7-5 sets advantage after the second round.
“It was kind of just like a perfect storm,” Ha said. “We just turned it on, and we kind of forced the errors. We knew that it was an important match that we had to win, and we took it … We always know that our singles are going to dominate. It’s basically up to the doubles to just to take us home.”
After Torlic beat Tyler Biedebach 6-0 in the third round and Ferry beat Aaron Palmisano by the same score, the Lightning had a sizable games advantage that would come in handy at the end, after Krishnan lost to Emery in the last set completed of the match.
“I’m ecstatic,” Lightning coach Whit Kenerson said. “I came in here, my first year, not really knowing what had happened last year, not knowing the chemistry and the makeup and everything that had gone on … I mean, it’s a tremendous opportunity. It’s a great run. These guys, right now they’re in the moment, but I think long-term when they look back on it, it will be a highlight for them at Sage and in high school sports. It’s a tremendous opportunity to play in the final.”
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