Estancia girls’ tennis fittingly turned things around

Senior Annie Mitchell plays at No. 1 singles for Estancia, which earned two close wins over rival Costa Mesa in Orange Coast League play.
(File Photo)

After an 0-9 preseason and with a first-year head coach, it was nervous time for the Estancia High girls’ tennis team.

Kevin Springer’s background is in fitness training, but the walk-on coach wasn’t sure if the Eagles were fit to compete in the Orange Coast League.

“We got our butts kicked and I didn’t know what to expect [in league],” he said.

There was definitely cause for concern for the Eagles, senior co-captain and No. 1 singles player Annie Mitchell said. Suffering loss after loss is never fun.

“We all kind of got a little worried, a little scared,” Mitchell said. “We really just wanted to beat Mesa.”

Estancia did that, twice, on its way to a successful season. The Eagles finished 7-3 in league — two wins better than last year — after losing to league champion Laguna Beach on Thursday. Estancia tied for second in league with Calvary Chapel.

The Eagles compete in the league singles and doubles tournaments on Wednesday and Thursday at Saddleback High, and then will vie in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.

Beating Costa Mesa was indeed thrilling for the Eagles. They did it 9-9 (87-81 on games) in the league opener on Sept. 19, then by a 10-8 score on Oct. 6. The second match actually had to be concluded the next day, after Mitchell and Costa Mesa’s Alexis Votran mistakenly shook hands with Mitchell up 6-5 in the set.

Mitchell held serve the next afternoon, beating Votran 7-5 to end the set and the match.

“We had to overcome some adversity,” Springer said. “I was really happy for my player. She showed a lot of courage that day to close out that match for us.”

Mitchell, who also plays water polo and swims at Estancia, is one of just three returning varsity players this year for the Eagles. The two others, senior Rocio Hernandez and sophomore Julianna Balducci, play at No. 1 doubles together for Estancia.

The singles lineup behind Mitchell is young, but it came through in league play. It consists of freshman Kate Harrison and sophomore Leslie Hernandez, who Springer picked as the other co-captain.

“She’s been willing to play any position, singles, doubles,” Springer said. “She leads the warmups; she’s just awesome. Great attitude.”

Getting to the 7-3 record in league wasn’t easy for Estancia. Six of the seven wins in league came by scores of 12-6 or closer. But somehow, the Eagles were always able to deliver.

“We were playing as best as we could and giving it our all, and I think that’s why we won,” Mitchell said. “I remember the first time I played Godinez, I felt really sick that day. I only won one [set], but I just gave it my all, and that one counted. Everyone knew that what they did counted, so that’s what helped us out in the end.”

Laguna’s Karkoska commits to Columbia University

Laguna Beach High senior Kasey Karkoska has verbally committed to Columbia University in New York for women’s swimming, she announced Thursday via Instagram.

Karkoska helped the Breakers win their 10th straight Orange Coast League title last spring, capturing the 200-yard individual medley and 100 freestyle at league finals. She went on to finish seventh in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 backstroke at the CIF Southern Section Division 2 finals.

Karkoska swims club for Irvine-based Novaquatics.

Twitter: @mjszabo