Sage Hill School seniors Morgan Mann, Miranda deBruyne and Hannah Herin will graduate from the Lightning girls’ tennis program as four-time league champions.
Each has been on varsity since their freshmen year, and each has helped Sage Hill achieve perfection in league during that span, with a 39-0 combined league record.
“We’re really good friends,” deBruyne said, “so it’s been good to go through all of this together.”
Sage Hill moved from the Academy League to the San Joaquin League this year, but the good times have continued.
The Lightning beat rival St. Margaret’s 15-3 in the league finale Tuesday at Sage Hill to clinch the outright San Joaquin League title. They have won 40 straight league matches overall since a 10-8 loss to St. Margaret’s on Oct. 21, 2014.
Sage Hill (13-5, 12-0 in league) did not have the top player in Tuesday’s match. That would be St. Margaret’s sophomore Seychelle Balog, who easily swept 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 singles for the Tartans (10-5, 10-2).
Tartans first-year coach Scott Lipsky, a former professional tennis player who also played World Team Tennis for the Orange County Breakers in 2016, said Balog won each set during league play by a 6-2 score of better.
But Sage Hill’s depth won out. Mann, freshman Alexis Ha and junior Kate Marshall each won twice in singles. Sage Hill also swept in doubles. DeBruyne and junior Karina Grover won three sets at No. 1 doubles, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2, while juniors Maddy Dao and Julia Yuen swept 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“Sage is good,” Lipsky said. “They have a lot of good players. They compete hard and do the right things on the court. They’re definitely a standard for our league.”
Even Sage Hill’s No. 3 pairing of Herin and sophomore Lauren Avenatti came up big with three wins, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. With Sage Hill on its fall break on Monday and Tuesday, first-year coach Whit Kenerson said his team was missing usual starters Miya Stauss and Kimi Reddy, both juniors who was visiting prospective colleges. The Lightning took it in stride, however.
At the beginning of the year, we didn’t have a lot of practice before the three tough matches we lost. ... but now I feel like we’re really primed for CIF.
Sage Hill started the season with nonleague losses against Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and Foothill, but the improvement since then has been evident.
“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t have a lot of practice before the three tough matches we lost,” Kenerson said. “The doubles combinations weren’t really there … but now I feel like we’re really primed for CIF. If we get a good draw, I think we can do some damage, especially with the eight top teams going into the Open Division. It opens the door up for us a bit in Division 1.”
Kenerson said his team served for the match against Northwood on Sept. 5 before losing 10-8. Northwood is currently ranked No. 13 in Division 1.
Winning a playoff match is a goal, Mann said. In its first two years in Division 1, Sage Hill received tough draws. The Lightning lost in the first round to San Clemente in 2016 and to eventual Division 1 finalist University last season.
The San Joaquin League tournament begins on Oct. 23, with the singles and doubles semifinals and finals at Sage Hill on Oct. 25.
The team’s three seniors will go out on top in league. A playoff run would be icing on the cake.
“We go out with a bang, end strong,” deBruyne said. “We lost a lot of people last year and we got a new coach. We were a little worried about how the season would go with the team being so fresh, but we really came together.”