Junior Tennis: Xepoleas doubles up

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Lynda Xepoleas can't control the draw at the 108th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships.

All Xepoleas can do is play her best, even when the opponent is her best friend, Shayne Austin of Oak Park.

No. 4-seeded Xepoleas plays against Austin in a girls' 18 singles round of 32 match today at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club. But on Thursday at Los Cab, she helped ensure her best friend would also be on the same side of the net today as well.

Xepoleas, who just moved to Newport Beach two weeks ago, advanced to the girls' 18 doubles semifinals with Austin. The No. 9-seeded tandem beat Lindsey Kostas and Christina Makarova of San Diego, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. Xepoleas and Austin then upset No. 4 Sarah Lee of Los Angeles and Maya Jin of Palos Verdes Estates in the quarterfinals, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Xepoleas and Austin will play Gabrielle Andrews of Pomona and Zoe Katz of Los Angeles in a semifinal match at 5:30 p.m. today at Los Cab. That will be preceded by their aforementioned singles match against each other, at 1:30 p.m.

Xepoleas, the Purdue commit who plans to play for Corona del Mar High in the fall, is ranked No. 4 in Southern California girls' 18s and No. 12 nationally by the United States Tennis Assn. Her powerful serve and groundstroke have matched well with Austin's volleys and good hands.

The two have played numerous tournaments together since they began training at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai, where Xepoleas lived previously.

"Shayne's always good at poaching," said Xepoleas, whose younger sister, Meredith, begins play in the girls' 14 singles round of 32 today. "I get the first serve in and she [handles the rest]. That's kind of our pattern. It works that way."

It worked against Lee and Jin. Lee, who won CIF Individuals doubles two years ago and helped lead Campbell Hall to the CIF Southern Section Division I title last year, is always a tough customer. She is ranked No. 6 in Southern California and 14th nationally.

But it was Xepoleas and Austin who had the momentum after a tough first set. They opened up a double-break lead in the second set and won it going away.

"I think we were just thinking too much," Austin said. "We came out [in the second set] and we were just going to attack. We found what we needed to work on."

They also kept positive, as Lee and Jin began yelling at themselves and slamming their racquets on the ground.

"I actually think in doubles you have to stay more positive," Xepoleas said. "You have another person and you can affect them very easily. It's all about attitude for doubles, the way you approach each point."

Xepoleas and Austin opened a 4-1 lead in the final set, but had to hang on.

"I was kind of expecting it," Xepoleas said. "Sitting down on the bench at 4-1, it was like, 'It's not over yet.' You never know your work's done until the last point."

Serving at 4-3, Xepoleas was pushed to four deuces before holding. Serving for the match at 5-4, Austin had three match points that got away.

Finally, the opponents couldn't get to Xepoleas' volley, and she and Austin were through to the semifinals.

They also had a tough challenge in the round of 16 earlier in the day. But after converting their third set point in the first set, they won the second with ease.

Their singles match against each other comes first today. They've only played once in a "real" match but they said it shouldn't be a big deal, having played so many practice matches against each other before.

Xepoleas doesn't usually have a problem adjusting. She is already settled into Orange County, hitting at the Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine twice a week. The family has also joined Palisades Tennis Club.

Plus, at least she and Austin know they'll be on the same side of the net later today.

"I think it's going to be fine," Austin said. "We've done it so many times in practice."

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