Sage's Bick, Billingsley continue to impress

Rian Billingsley's nickname is simple.

The Sage Hill School tennis player likes to poach at the net and has good volleys, which sometimes lead to opponents getting pegged — unintentionally of course.

Billingsley's known as "The Terminator" to the Lightning girls' tennis team.

The former movie version of "The Terminator," Arnold Schwarzenegger, is leaving office as California's governor in January as his term ends. Billingsley and doubles partner Katie Bick are just juniors, so they will be back.

For that, Lightning Coach A.G. Longoria can be glad. All Billingsley and Bick did this year was compile a perfect Academy League record, helping Sage Hill make the CIF Southern Section Division III championship match before falling on games to rival St. Margaret's.

In two years of playing doubles together, the Daily Pilot Athletes of the Week are 83-8. And they still have more to go, as they've made it to the round of 16 in CIF Individuals, beginning Thursday at Seal Beach Tennis Center.

"They're both big hitters, both good volleyers and poachers," Longoria said. "They have such power, especially Rian. Rian puts the fear of God in anyone at the net. And Katie has such good hands."

Billingsley has always been a strong doubles player for the Lightning. In her freshman year two years ago, she finished second in league with then-senior Isa-Marie Taskinen. Last year, she finished third in league with her older sister, current senior Devyn Billingsley.

Bick started off in singles her freshman year for Sage Hill. She split time between doubles and singles last year, but she and Billingsley pulled off a memorable win against St. Margaret's. They beat the duo of Hayley Miller and Melanie Hess in a regular-season match, the first loss for the Tartans duo in two years.

Bick was excited about the result. Then, immediately afterward, she hurt her neck and missed much of the rest of the season.

"It's kind of embarrassing," she said. "You know when you flip people over you? We were really excited after that match. My friend did it to me, then I was too afraid to flip over. I slid down and landed on my neck."

She came back near the end of the season and Bick and Billingsley still went 45-4 for the year, helping the Lightning reach the Division IV semifinals.

This year, the duo has continued to grow. Not only are they both big hitters, but they both can be very intense on the court.

That helped them in the Division III semifinals Nov. 18, against top-seeded West Ranch. Billingsley and Bick were down a break of serve to West Ranch's top team, 2-0, and getting a bit discouraged. Rian and Devyn had heavy hearts as they learned that their aunt, Shirley, had passed away earlier in the day.

But things eventually clicked and, as Bick said, Sage's No. 1 tandem started playing "boss" tennis.

They won that set, 7-5, an important one for sure as Sage pulled off the upset, 10-8, at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

"We'll be mad at each other for a point or two, or maybe a game, then we'll be friends again," Billingsley said. "We're both, not hotheads, but we both get down on ourselves fast. If one of us is mad, we just want our own time for a second, but then we'll come back strong. We never let the opponents think that they're breaking us down."

They handled their business in the playoffs, going 15-0 as a doubles team this year. In the preliminary rounds of CIF Individuals, Billingsley and Bick were the only Newport-Mesa doubles team to move on to Seal Beach after recording wins over teams from Elsinore, Claremont and Orange Lutheran. They didn't drop a set in the two-out-of-three format.

Longoria was pleased, but not surprised. At 5-foot-7 and 5-2, respectively, neither Billingsley nor Bick is particularly tall, but they can be intimidating.

"They just hit the ball so hard and with such authority," Longoria said. "If you try to lob them, they both have consistent overheads. They're both just power players. They wear the opponents down."

Both stay grounded off the court. Billingsley likes to dance and sing, providing entertainment for her teammates as she always knows the lyrics to the latest songs. Bick plays the piano and enjoys scuba diving.

When playing together, they are also more and more in harmony. Doubles matches are often played cross-court, as the two players in the back trade cross-court ground strokes to keep the player at the net from poaching.

"I think we've learned that if we don't keep it cross-court, we're going to get our partner hit in the face," Bick said.

"The Terminator" takes care of it if an opponent makes a similar mistake.

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