Sage movin' on up

NEWPORT BEACH — Robbe Simon dug deep, not that the Sage Hill School junior had a choice.

Serving at 4-5 and love-40, Simon faced triple match point. Yet Simon stayed steady Tuesday afternoon in the Lightning's nonleague match against Santa Margarita.

"I don't know what was really going through my mind," Simon said. "I just kind of thought, 'One more point. One more point.'"

He came back to win that first set over Santa Margarita's Matt Breisacher in a tiebreaker, then called it a day. Simon, a lefty, put a big ice pack on his sore left shoulder.

A couple of hours later he watched his replacement help ice the match, as Garrett Rapport came in for two big wins in Sage's impressive 10-8 nonleague victory at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

The Lightning (2-0) beat their second Trinity League school in as many days. Coach A.G. Longoria said it's the first time Sage Hill has ever beaten Santa Margarita in boys' tennis in eight meetings.

Sage Hill, which advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV semifinals last year before losing a marathon super-tiebreaker match to Rowland, is now up in Division III.

"When our girls were moved to Division III [last fall], we didn't get any respect," Longoria said. "We kind of told [the ranking committee] that St. Margaret's and us were pretty good. But we didn't have any experience so we weren't seeded in the [CIF] tournament, and we ended up playing each other in the final, two Division IV teams moving up."

A win over a Division I team like Santa Margarita (0-1), last year's Trinity League champion, should make people take notice of the Lightning boys. Senior Andrew Kurzweil and junior Denis Cirit each won two singles sets, and the doubles team of senior Kevin Marshack and junior Alex Manolakas also won two of three sets.

The Lightning used Simon's win to take a 4-2 lead after the first go-round, and led throughout. The Santa Margarita doubles team of Henry Steipel and Lucas Miller rallied past Marshack and Manolakas in a final-round tiebreaker, pulling the Eagles closer. But after Kurzweil topped Leigh Steipel in his final singles match, Sage was up, 9-8, and with a big enough games lead should it come to that.

Rapport still gave everyone a good show in the last set on court, outlasting Santa Margarita's Jonathan Song in yet another tiebreaker, 7-4.

"I wasn't expecting it at all," Rapport said of coming into the match after the first round. "Definitely, Robbe was the last person I was expecting to sub [for]. I was already looking at the scoreboard counting Robbe's matches that he was going to win. Then, when I got in, I knew I had to win those. I just got out there and tried to hit as many balls as I could."

Sage also got a key victory in the third round from its No. 2 doubles team of senior Nasier Emtiaz and freshman Eric Maglioditi. They came back from two 6-1 losses in the first two rounds to post a 6-4 win, helping the Lightning get closer to clinching the match.

The first CIF boys' tennis polls don't come out until next week. Starting the season 2-0 is a big difference from last year, when the Lightning started 0-9 as Kurzweil, Simon and graduate Alex Koeberle missed time with various injuries.

Sage returns eight of nine starters minus just Koeberle, but Rapport said the Lightning can't afford to look too far ahead.

"I think we've got to take it one match at a time," he said. "We've got to just focus on every point. Not even every game, just every point."

Sage Hill plays host to its annual Lightning Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The format is six singles sets and three doubles, so players can play both. The five-team field also includes Newport Harbor, Tesoro, Oaks Christian and Temecula Valley.

Oaks Christian made the Division III semifinals last year, and Temecula Valley the quarterfinals.

"We'll get a look-see at them," Longoria said of his team's new divisional foes. "They'll get a look-see at us, too."

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