Sage shows it belongs

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Before the season, Sage Hill School girls' tennis coach A.G. Longoria wasn't sure what to think about his young, rebuilding-type team in a higher division.

All he knew was that he wanted his players to prove that they belong in CIF Southern Section Division III after leaving Division IV.

With a big road win Tuesday, Longoria believes they have shown that they belong.

Sage Hill swept in doubles and beat San Luis Obispo, 11-7, to advance to Thursday's semifinals. It is the eighth time in the last nine years the Lightning have reached the semifinals.

Sage Hill (14-6), the No. 5 seed, will play host to top seed West Ranch of Valencia at The Tennis Club Newport Beach at 2 p.m. West Ranch defeated Santiago of Corona, 13-5, in the quarterfinals.

"We're still a young team rebuilding, but we are playing really solid doubles," Longoria said. "We have won all our doubles sets in the playoffs and the last part of Academy League. We have just enough power in singles to get us some wins … We are just excited to be in the semifinals. This is a bigger division. We didn't really know how we could do. We have proven that we belong in Division III and we'll see how we do against the No. 1 seed."

Longoria said the Lightning left Newport Beach at 7 a.m. and arrived in San Luis Obispo at around noon. They had lunch and went to play shortly after.

The doubles teams certainly showed no ill effects of the long trip — 233 miles — and were eager to eliminate the Tigers (10-2) from the playoffs.

Sage's No. 1 doubles team of Katie Bick and Rian Billinglsey dropped just one game, as the juniors won, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. The Academy League doubles champions improved to 16-0 as a tandem.

Senior Devyn Billingsley and sophomore Lauren Hsu, the Lightning's No. 2 doubles team, reeled off 6-2, 6-0, 7-5 victories. The No. 3 doubles team of senior Olivia Simon and junior Ava Soleimany earned 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 wins for Sage Hill.

Sophomore Liana Korber, the Lightning's No. 1 singles player, posted a win, as did No. 2 singles player, Kimberly Brown, a sophomore.

Sage Hill has just two seniors in its starting lineup. No. 3 singles player Casey Astorino is a junior.

"All of the years I've been on the team this is our best team," said Devyn Billingsley, a team captain. "I feel like everyone is working together and that's why we have been so successful this year. We can probably make the finals."

— From staff reports

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