CdM streak threatened

CORONA DEL MAR — The streak has been going since some of the members of the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis team were little more than toddlers.

The Sea Kings have 11 straight Pacific Coast League titles. But after more than a decade of dominance, No. 12 doesn't look like it's on the horizon.

Visiting University scored a big 12-6 win over the Sea Kings on Tuesday afternoon, taking a big step in denying the Sea Kings the league title for the first time since 1999.

The teams play again at University on Oct. 28.

The loss itself may not have been shocking to CdM (8-4, 2-1 in league). The Sea Kings, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll, knew that No. 3 University would be tough. CdM just edged the rival Trojans twice last year, winning in games the first meeting and 10-8 the second.

What may have been more surprising was the way Uni seized control of the match early Tuesday, opening up a 5-1 lead after the first round and having it all but clinched with a 9-3 advantage after the second.

"If you look at the personnel, they lost more than we did from last year," Uni Coach John Kessler said. "But then they get Lynda [Xepoleas] and [Lauren] Thaxter. To me, that put it a lot closer. I thought we would be 10-8 better … This is just a long-awaited win for us. It's a quality win against a quality program."

It's the first time in nine years of varsity girls coaching, including two at Laguna Beach and seven at CdM, that Coach Brian Ricker has lost to University. Woodbridge is also tough in league, but University (8-1, 3-0) now has the inside track to go undefeated and claim the outright league title.

"We'd have to beat them worse than they beat us," said Ricker, knowing that's unlikely. "I knew [the streak was] in great jeopardy this year. I like to set realistic goals for the team. Even last year, I started talking to the seniors, saying 'Girls, you don't want to be the ones who end the streak of league championships.' They don't want to be [that team] at all. We've worked as hard as we could, done everything we can … We're here, we're trying. Sometimes you run up against a team that's got more talent, and that was the case today.

"They just have a lot of good tournament players who are committed, and they have a good program, good coaching. Last year, they had seven freshmen in the top 100 [in Southern California girls' 14s]. This year, I think they have four more. We aren't getting those kinds of numbers."

University junior Kyra Scott swept her singles sets, although her third win came after Xepoleas was subbed out in No. 1 singles. The Trojans' No. 2 doubles team of senior Elika Fateri and freshman Danielle Pham also swept, and the No. 1 team (Caroline Kolln and Shannon Thiesen) won two of three.

Senior Ali Dawson also won two of three singles sets for Uni. Xepoleas had to battle back for a 7-5 victory over Dawson, but it was understandable. Xepoleas won the Dunlop Junior Championships, a Level 3 national tournament, Monday in Palm Desert. It was three days of matches in 100-degree heat, said her father, John.

"The second match [Tuesday] was tougher just because it was a tougher player," Xepoleas said. "I wasn't feeling tired [against Dawson], I was feeling frustrated because I couldn't play at my very, very best. But you know, I pulled through."

The CdM doubles team of Alison Ishii and Thaxter won two sets. Seniors Piper Bledsoe and Mackenzie Ludlow also won a doubles set for CdM, and Kalika Slevcove won a singles set.

It was great for Scott, who lost to CdM's Melissa Matsuoka in a tiebreaker last year as the Sea Kings edged the first match on games. This year, she was much happier, even gleefully volunteering to be a line judge when Dawson requested one.

"I've been anticipating this match the whole season," Scott said. "I was really excited to play CdM … We want a Pacific Coast League title this year and we're definitely working toward that."

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