Mustangs prevail again

COSTA MESA — Michael Chantos won his last set of the day.

Then, he braced himself.

His Costa Mesa High boys' tennis teammates sprinted onto the court and piled on top of Chantos.

For the first time in a while, the Mustangs are near the top of the heap.

Costa Mesa edged cross-town rival Estancia, 10-8, in the Orange Coast League match Monday at Costa Mesa High. The Mustangs clinched at least second place in league and their first CIF Southern Section Division IV playoff appearance since 2006.

They weren't done after the mass celebration on court, either. After finding a bucket of ice water to pour on top of Coach Jan Migaki, they found another one and did the same to Chantos. Mesa's No. 3 singles player earned it after edging Estancia's Jared Payzant, 7-5, in the final set on court, although Mesa also had enough games should the final score have been deadlocked at nine sets apiece.

"[The set] came down to five-all," said Chantos, a junior who was all smiles after the match. "We had to focus and I pulled through. This is the greatest win ever."

Costa Mesa (7-3, 6-1 in league) could actually pull ahead of Laguna Beach (5-0 in league) by winning the Mustangs' league finale Tuesday at Laguna, though the three-time defending champion Breakers are heavy favorites.

Estancia Coach Carlos Beltran said the Eagles (6-11, 4-4), who are done with their league schedule, have third place all locked up. Beltran said they also will advance to CIF for the eighth straight year. However, this will be the first time since the league was formed five years ago that the Mustangs finish ahead of the Eagles.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Costa Mesa senior Justin Dang, who won two of three sets at No. 2 singles Monday. "Our freshman year we fell behind Estancia, and the same thing sophomore year. This victory for us, especially as seniors, is a huge one. It's a great way to close out our high school tennis careers."

Senior Alex Adams swept at No. 1 singles for Mesa, which was ahead, 4-2, after one round and 7-5 after two rounds.

The match ended with an identical 10-8 score as the teams' first meeting, but this one felt closer. That was especially true after Estancia No. 1 singles player Robert Marrone defeated Dang, 6-3, to pull the Eagles within 9-8.

Marrone lost to Dang in the teams' first meeting. Beltran said he would have given Marrone, a sophomore, the game ball if the Eagles would have won Monday's match. He helped Estancia pull within three games, 68-65, with only Chantos and Payzant still on the court.

The atmosphere was tense. Estancia doubles player Dave Cornelius tried to lighten the mood by starting "the wave," but it died as it reached the Costa Mesa side of the court.

Beltran called former Estancia boys' coach Rachel de los Santos, asking her what the teams should do if they ended up tied in both sets and games. But if Chantos could get to four games, he could give the Mustangs an insurmountable games lead, regardless of the set's outcome.

Chantos, who didn't play against Estancia in the teams' earlier meeting due to a shoulder injury, made the games tally a moot point.

"This was his first real match back," Migaki said of Chantos, who won two of three sets. "For him to play so composed coming back off an injury was very impressive."

Cornelius, a junior, and sophomore Matt Thomas swept at No. 1 doubles for Estancia, while sophomores Erik Cerros and Joseph Kidane took two of three sets at No. 3 doubles.

Senior Benny Quinonez and junior Tam Le won two of three doubles sets for the Mustangs. The other senior starter, Jayson Nguyen, won Mesa's other doubles set with his partner, Thinh Vu.

"I'm happy because our seniors did it," Migaki said. "It's really a compliment to the seniors. They stayed with the team for four years, and they got to the peak. That's what you would hope [would happen]."

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