Junior Tennis: Xepoleas has split decision

FOUNTAIN VALLEY — In the aftermath of a girls' 18 semifinal doubles defeat Friday at the Southern California Junior Sectional tennis championships, there was plenty of consolation for Newport Beach resident Lynda Xepoleas.

There was the advent of her victory in the singles round of 16 earlier in the afternoon at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club. And there was also the matter of the post-match commute.

"There's still little bit of 'What, it's only a 10-minute drive?' " said Xepoleas, who moved to Newport with her family two weeks ago from Ojai. "I just like coming home [from nearby Fountain Valley]. It's so nice and much better than the long drive."

Xepoleas, ranked No. 4 in Southern California in the girls' 18s and No. 12 nationally by the United States Tennis Assn., defeated doubles partner and friend, Shayne Austin, 6-2, 7-5, in singles early Friday afternoon.

Xepoleas, who will compete for Corona del Mar High in the fall and has verbally committed to a collegiate career at Purdue, then paired with Austin, an Oak Park resident, for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 setback to Gabrielle Andrews of Pomona and Zoe Katz from Los Angeles.

Facing off across the net did nothing to promote discord between Xepoleas and Austin, who followed up their singles showdown by having lunch together and preparing for their doubles clash.

"It's one of those things where you just have to put it behind you," Xepoleas said of her rare competitive match against her partner of more than two years. "It doesn't really affect the way we play. We know a lot about each other and we kind of know what works and what doesn't."

Things were working less than optimally for Xepoleas and Austin early, as they fell behind, 4-1, and were broken twice in the first-set loss.

"[Andrews and Katz] kind of came out firing and we kind of had to pick it up," Xepoleas said.

Xepoleas and Austin did just that, breaking serve twice to seize a 4-1 lead, then hold on to force the decisive third set.

"In the second set, we started to serve better and poach more," Xepoleas said. "Things just kind of came together."

But things started to come apart early in the final set, when Andrews and Katz broke Austin to claim a 2-0 advantage.

Xepoleas and Austin broke back to pull even, 2-2, but Andrews and Katz broke Xepoleas to pull ahead, 5-3, and they were on their way.

"We needed another break, so we could get a lead, because we were always coming back from behind," Xepoleas said of the final set. "It kind of came down to the wire and it was just a couple points, so it was pretty close."

Xepoleas and Austin, seeded No. 9, upset the No. 4-seeded duo to advance to the semifinals.

Xepoleas would love to get that far in singles. The No. 4 seed in the 18 singles draw, she takes on No. 9-seeded Joanna Smith, in today's 4:30 p.m. quarterfinal.

"I really want to solidify my No. 4 seeding and No. 4 ranking [in SoCal] in this tournament," Xepoleas said. "I'd take the semis, but the final is probably a better goal."

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