NEWPORT BEACH — Coach Kristen Case creates a motto each season for her Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team.
This year's motto, displayed on a blue rubber wrist bracelet, reads: "Dominate and Defend 2010" as well as "We are Beast."
The first part of the motto is a reference to the quest for a third straight Sunset League title. The second part is a phrase Case implements to inspire toughness in her players.
But it's an atmosphere of positivity that Case, in her fourth season at the helm, has created that permeates even deeper with the players.
Those players, as well as Case, display this passion for the positive with a two-word mantra that typically resonates after virtually every point lost by the Sailors: "Right back!"
It's this succinct bit of wisdom that helped dampen any disappointment felt by a nonleague loss to visiting Woodbridge Tuesday.
Both teams won nine sets, but the Warriors, ranked No. 8 in CIF Southern Section Division I, prevailed on games, 72-71, to improve to 8-0.
Newport Harbor, ranked No. 4 in CIF Division II, is now 7-2, but Case was anything but displeased with her team's effort.
"I always tell [the players] 'You win some and you learn some,' " Case said. "So, we have to learn from this. What's really going to count is what we do [today in another nonleague match against visiting Mira Costa]. I want them to fire up, keep their heads up, and be happy that we are right there with Woodbridge, because [the Warriors] are a great team.
"At the end of the day, you have to have a winner and a loser," Case said. "But I'm very proud of the way my girls played today."
The No. 1 doubles team of juniors Ricki Archie and Christina Young swept, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, to pace the Sailors, who earned six of their set victories in doubles.
Junior Mindy Wheeler and sophomore partner Megan Bathen won a pair of sets at No. 2 doubles, while doubles substitutes Holly Hovnanian and Kate Knight split their two sets, including a 6-0 win over the Warriors' No. 2 duo.
Newport Harbor singles players Blake Bakkila, Natalie Cernius and Lauren Conway, each defeated the Warriors' No. 3 player.
The match went down to the final set.
With Bathen and Wheeler leading Nicole Millado and Lauren Wooten, 4-2, play on all other courts wrapped up, with the Warriors needing just one more game to clinch the victory.
Millado and Wooten delivered moments later, before Bathen and Wheeler won the final two to close out a 6-3 set victory.
"I knew every round was going to be tight, which it was," Case said. "Unfortunately, at the end, you have to count up games."
After two rounds, both teams had won six sets and 49 games. Woodbridge Coach Ric Barth said his team overcame the absence of two players, one of whom was sick and the other injured. His shuffled lineup included pairing two junior varsity players at No. 2 doubles. That duo, as well as the visitors' No. 3 singles player, each managed to win one game.
"I told those guys they had to go out and get at least one game and the two they won decided the match," Barth said.
Woodbridge freshman Mayo Hibi, ranked No. 1 in the nation in 14s singles, won 18 of 19 games, with Bakkila claiming the only game for the Sailors.
"When you have a big gun like [Hibi], that usually gets you up three [sets]," Case said. "The fact that they have the No. 1 girl in the nation in her age group and we lose by one game … that's pretty good."