Plenty of local competitors at junior sectionals

The Xepoleas family doesn't have to drive as far for this tournament as before.

About 12 miles one way is nothing compared to 10 times that number.

Lynda Xepoleas, a transfer to Corona del Mar High from Ojai, has only been living in Newport Beach for about a week. But she is one of the best chances for a title among Newport-Mesa junior tennis players at the 108th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships, which begin today and are again headquarterted at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley.

The tournament is the largest annual junior tournament in the United States.

Xepoleas is the No. 4 seed in the girls' 18 singles draw. As such, she won't actually begin singles play until the round of 32 on Friday. But she's also in the doubles draw, where she and partner Shayne Austin will begin their tournament Sunday.

"I really like sectionals," said Xepoleas, who has committed to Purdue. She reached the girls' 18 quarterfinals last year.

"I had some good results last year," she said. "I mean, I beat [now No. 1 in the nation in girls' 18s] Krista Hardebeck [of Santa Ana]."

There are other local seeded players, who also begin their tournament Friday. Newport Beach's Austin Di Giulio is seeded fourth in the boys' 10s draw, although Di Guilo's older brother Joseph, a three-time junior sectionals champion, is not entered in the tournament this year.

Austin Di Giulio made it to the semifinals of the boys' 10s last year at junior sectionals.

Newport Coast resident Max Pham is the third-seeded player in the boys' 12s draw, and Garrett Kurtz of Corona del Mar is the No. 5 seed.

Lynda Xepoleas' younger sister, Meredith, is the 11th-seeded player in the girls' 14 singles draw. Corona del Mar High freshman Nini Ugrelidze, from the country of Georgia, is right behind, seeded 12th in girls' 14s.

Mazy Watrous of Newport Beach is seeded 15th in the girls' 16s draw. She's also playing doubles with Tory Parravi of San Diego.

Unseeded players in the tournament start play today and action continues through Monday, then resumes on Friday with the round of 32. The top 16 "qualifiers" from early play will be inserted into the draw with the 16 seeded players in each division.

Championship matches for most divisions are on June 28.

Another familiar name in the draw is CdM junior Shane Korber, who is in both the boys' 18 singles and doubles. Korber and Villanova-bound CdM senior Ryan Peyton made the doubles finals last month at the CIF Southern Section Individuals. Peyton is playing boys' 18 singles at junior sectionals.

There's also an all-Newport Harbor girls' 18s doubles team, featuring Alex Aiello and Riley Mathies. CdM's Morgan McVey is also in the doubles draw, with partner Tiffany Cheng of Laguna Beach.

The CdM team of Alex Murray and Carter Wheatley, who played No. 2 doubles this year, is in the boys' 18 doubles draw.

For Southern California ranking purposes, the junior sectionals are a Level 1 event, the highest level. Another plus is that for boys' and girls' 12s and 14s singles, it's a Nike Junior Tour qualifying event.

Winners in those age groups will be invited to the NJT USA National Masters tournament, from Sept. 18-20 in Boca Raton, Fla.

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