A season-ending loss in any sport is hard to take.
Yet, after Newport Harbor High juniors Christina Young and Ricki Archie fell in the second round of CIF girls' tennis Individuals last year to a team from St. Margaret's, they were at their most motivated.
Coach Kristen Case had nothing but encouragement for Young and Archie.
"I think it really fired us up," Young said. "I remember Kristen told us, 'Look how far you guys got the first year you played together.' She said we could only go up from there. Our goal is just to do better every year. We looked back and saw that it was our first year on varsity and our first year playing together. It was kind of a big deal for us, making it that far."
Young and Archie have only built on that experience in their second year as the Sailors' No. 1 doubles team. They have been rock-solid, accumulating a 42-2 record this year for Newport Harbor, including winning the Sunset League doubles title Thursday.
The opponents in the final at Seal Beach Tennis Center were Sailors too, the No. 2 doubles team of Mindy Wheeler and Megan Bathen.
Want proof that the Sailors, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division II, are deep in doubles? Neither Young and Archie, nor Wheeler and Bathen, dropped a set in league play.
The No. 1 team has been everything Case could have hoped for this year, as Newport Harbor won its third straight league title.
"They're both very competitive, and they always support each other," Case said. "That's huge in doubles. We play a lot of tennis throughout the season, and they consistently show up and get the job done. And they're really supportive teammates. They're so humble."
Both began getting serious about tennis in eighth grade, knowing they wanted to play in high school. The Sailors like to talk about how good their friendships are, and it's clear those friendships have been in formation for years.
Archie said she began playing with Newport seniors Riley Mathies and Alex Aiello, who make up the team's No. 3 doubles team. Her father, Dave, also started playing a lot, so Ricki always has someone to hit with.
"I live near Riley and Alex," Ricki Archie said. "We hit down at the peninsula together. It's really cool, because when they made varsity I wanted to do it too."
Young and her twin sister, Robin, grew up playing soccer and basketball. But the family is good friends with the Bakkilas and Blake, who plays No. 1 singles for Newport Harbor, has always been into tennis.
The mothers of Christina Young and Blake Bakkila, Carrie and Corey, also played tennis together at Newport Harbor.
"We played soccer for so long," Christina Young said of her and Robin. "We just wanted to try something new."
Young and Archie, who have the team nicknames "X" and "Rick-ster," learn from the best. Case herself was a decorated doubles player at Newport Harbor before playing at Cal. She made the CIF Individuals doubles final in 1998 with Audra Adams and the doubles semifinal in 1999 with Jenny Meyer. Case and Meyer helped Newport Harbor get to the 1999 Division I final, where the Sailors almost upset Peninsula before falling, 10-8.
Case is glad the Young-Archie team came together. At 6-foot-1, Archie is good at poaching at the net, and Young is also comfortable there.
Last year, the duo only lost one Sunset League match, but their improvement this year still has been evident.
"We just work really well together," Young said. "I think our ground strokes are a lot stronger. Last year we relied a lot on our net play, but this year I feel like we're able to adjust more."
They may be humble off the court, but they take their matches seriously. Young and Archie are playing in the 108th annual Southern California Junior Sectional doubles championships this weekend in Fountain Valley, trying to further tone their games before CIF starts next week.
The Sailors' doubles depth should take them far. Robin Young and her partner, sophomore Kaitlyn Cosenza, don't start but are 12-0 this year. Another sub doubles team, Kate Knight and Holly Hovnanian, has also been effective.
"I was really happy that Robin made the team this year," Christina Young said. "At first, it was tough, because we played together freshman year, so it was it kind of tough when I made [varsity] and she didn't [last year]. But, I think she handled it really well. She was a good sport about it, but we both really wanted her to make it this year. And her and Kaitlyn have really stepped it up too."
Young and Archie will be playing a lot of tennis over the next couple of weeks. Case knows they'll step it up as well when needed.
"They're very open to coaching," Case said. " I give them thoughts and advice, they use it and then we assess things. It's great."