Dons roll through Sea Kings

Daily Pilot

SANTA BARBARA — The Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team expected the worst from Santa Barbara High and its fans.

CdM brought its own referee to Tuesday's CIF Southern Section Division I semifinal match, adding to the two provided by host Santa Barbara. Coach Brian Ricker also asked CdM athletic director Don Grable to come to the match between the No. 3-seeded Sea Kings and No. 2 Dons, just in case there were issues.

"I've heard so many nightmare stories about Santa Barbara, and I've experienced a few of them," Ricker said.

The crowd Tuesday was tame. Then again, there was no suspense at the end.

The Dons methodically beat the Sea Kings, 12-6, ending CdM's season. Santa Barbara (18-1) moves on to the final against top-seeded University on Wednesday at the Claremont Club.

Tiebreakers were so big in CdM's 11-7 quarterfinal win over Palos Verdes, as the Sea Kings (18-3) won three of four. This time, the Dons won three of four. Two in the first round hurt the most.

With Santa Barbara up, 3-1, the sets at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles went to tiebreakers. And CdM lost both, as the doubles team of Carter Wheatley and Alex Murray fell to Santa Barbara's Matt Baum and Dan Diaz, 7-1 in the tiebreaker. Minutes later, CdM senior Ryan Peyton couldn't hold a 6-5 lead in his tiebreaker and fell to Dons sophomore Nico Pollero, 8-6, in the tiebreaker.

A match that could have been tied, 3-3, had instead swung to Santa Barbara in a big way, 5-1.

"We lost three tiebreakers today and in each of those sets we had a set point," Ricker said. "That would have made it certainly a lot more exciting and close. But we still might not have won ... For us to win, we would have had to win all of the close sets. They were just a little stronger than we were."

By the end of the second round, Santa Barbara held a 9-3 lead, and was so far ahead on games that it had essentially clinched the match.

The Dons ended up winning six of nine sets in both singles and doubles. The No. 1 doubles team of Jim Vaughan and Chris Williams, which hasn't lost all season, swept CdM, and Dons senior Chase Melton won two singles sets before being subbed out.

Diaz, who has advanced to the round of 16 in the CIF doubles tournament with Baum, said the Dons were fortunate to get the sets they did.

"We played well, obviously, but I think a couple matches could have gone either way," he said. "Their doubles teams were, I think, the three toughest doubles teams that I've played all year on one team."

Shane Korber won a tiebreaker set over Pollero for CdM, and Peyton won his other two sets by 6-3 scores. CdM's doubles team of Pierce Stemler and Ismaen Aboubakare did the best, winning two of three sets, and the team of seniors Matt Fisher and Karl Fletcher won its final set of the day at No. 1 doubles.

"I thought this was the first team we played this year that had better doubles than we did," Ricker said. "They're just strong. Those top two teams are really tough."

The Sea Kings had a goal to get to the CIF semifinals, and as Fisher said after the match, they made it there for the first time since 2005. He also said this was the closest team he'd been on in his high school career.

"I'm really proud of our team," Fisher said. "We've come a long way and especially our doubles has improved so much since the start of the season. We went out having fun and with our heads up."

Ricker agreed.

"I've coached six seasons of boys [tennis], and this is easily my best group of boys I've ever had," he said. "The team chemistry and the conduct have been fantastic, and the wins came with it."

CIF Playoffs Santa Barbara…12 Corona del Mar…6

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