CdM humbled on road

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES — Brianna Kemp served an ace out wide, giving her and her younger sister, Kara, a set point Tuesday.

Kemp, the tall, left-handed junior, then ended the set with an ace down the middle. It was only the second go-round, but she also just about ended the match.

Peninsula was on its way to a surprisingly lopsided 13-5 upset of visiting Corona del Mar in the nonleague girls' tennis match. Kemp ended the suspense, putting her team up 9-3 headed into the final round.

The way it was going, it was unlikely the Sea Kings could sweep the final round and send it to games. They would have been happy just to win a doubles set.

For the first time in Coach Brian Ricker's seven-year tenure, CdM was swept in doubles.

Ricker has been trying to figure out his team's doubles situation. In three of their six matches, the Sea Kings have lost a majority of the doubles sets.

He said last week he inserted two new doubles teams in the starting lineup, with seniors Morgan McVey and Erica Lewis, as well as juniors Caroline Larsen and Ariana Naaseh.

"We changed the strategy," Ricker said. "Really, we went back to what we've always done, which is high, heavy topspin. I put in girls who play that way. I felt like even though we lost every set [Tuesday], they got better in every set they played. I think they'll keep improving … That's four girls who haven't started before."

Senior Mackenzie Ludlow and sophomore Alison Ishii had the best chance of avoiding the doubles sweep for CdM (4-2), ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll. The Sea Kings' No. 1 team had a 6-5 lead on the Kemp sisters in the third go-round, but lost in a tiebreaker.

The Peninsula No. 1 doubles team of Victoria Tam and Brandea Bunnag, as well as the No. 2 team of Lauren Gutierrez and Sachi Carlson, also swept.

"We had some good sets," said Ishii, whose usual partner, freshman Lauren Thaxter, was out sick. "When it comes down to it, they're just good. There's nothing I can really say. They played their best really … We've got to stick together and keep fighting."

Senior Lynda Xepoleas easily won three sets at No. 1 singles for CdM, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. Sophomore Nini Ugrelidze also won a pair of sets and senior Kalika Slevcove battled.

Slevcove, herself fighting sickness, was in the longest set of the first round but fell to Peninsula freshman Jasmine Hosseini, 7-5. That gave Peninsula (5-1) a 4-2 lead after round one.

Hosseini also beat Ugrelidze with her steady style.

"You had to be able to come in and take some balls out of the air, put some short balls away, which Lynda could do," Ricker said. "The other girls couldn't come in and take those balls out of the air. [Hosseini] was good. You want to think she's not good because of the way she plays, [but she's] a quality 'pusher.' She's good at it."

Peninsula co-coach Tom Cox could see his team rise from its No. 5 ranking in Division I. Cox talked about how last year when these teams played, CdM had clinched the match with a 10-2 lead.

"A little turnaround from last year," Cox said. "We've got three new freshmen in, a transfer student [Tam] and everybody improved a little bit … [sweeping doubles against CdM] was quite a feat for us."

It's still early in the season, but it doesn't get easier for CdM. The Sea Kings have two more big matches in the coming weeks, facing Dana Hills on Oct. 6 and Pacific Coast League rival University on Oct. 12. The Dolphins and Trojans are ranked Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, in Division I.

Six of the nine doubles sets Tuesday were 6-3 or closer, giving a bit of room for optimism.

"Even though we took a beating today, I feel like our doubles are going to get better," Ricker said. "We've got a whole season."

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