Lightning reverberation

They are two of the most successful players in Sage Hill School tennis history, athletes who helped propel the Lightning girls' tennis team into becoming the most successful team at the school.

They won three Academy League titles in their high school careers and helped Sage secure the CIF Southern Section Division V title in 2005.

Now, Sarah Geocaris and Stephanie Langer are back.

Geocaris and Langer will be assistant coaches for the Lightning girls' tennis team this fall. The timing worked out great for the Lightning, Coach A.G. Longoria said, after they returned from the East Coast. Geocaris recently graduated from Wheaton College and Langer from Bowdoin College.

They were back in town and helping out this summer, running a junior tennis program in Newport Coast. Nobody had to tell Longoria to try to secure his former star players for the high school season, too.

"When I found out they were not going to grad school immediately in September, you know, click, the light went on," Longoria said. "I ran it by our athletic director and the school, and of course they went crazy. It's fantastic to have alumni come back, especially these alumni."

Before graduating high school in 2007, Geocaris and Langer developed reputations as clutch players. They were the ones who both swept in singles, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, as the Lightning edged Aquinas of San Bernardino, 10-8, for the CIF title in 2005. It remains the only CIF title the girls' tennis program has won at Sage, and just one of three CIF team titles Lightning athletic programs have collected.

Each player went on to play in her respective Division III program in college. Geocaris was particularly successful, playing No. 1 or No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles all four years for Wheaton. Her junior year at Wheaton, the team won the New England Athletic Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, both for the first time.

Geocaris, who was a French and music double major at Wheaton, was faced with a decision. She was supposed to go on a trip abroad to Paris at the same time.

"I had to make the decision pretty quickly, and I decided to stay with the team," Geocaris said. "I wanted to be a part of that experience and that history. I mean, I loved my team. They were like sisters to me. The decision was pretty clear to me."

Langer enjoyed playing at Bowdoin for the Polar Bears, as well. Yet she walked away from playing competitively after two years at the school.

"It's a big commitment to play in college," said Langer, who graduated with a neuroscience degree. "I kind of decided I wanted to explore other things in college, and the academics were harsh. Having to take a final in a hotel room while you're at nationals is pretty rough. I had to do that my freshman year.

"Yeah, it was great," she added facetiously with a laugh. "It was great."

Both players were definitely focused on academics, and neither is done with school. Longoria likely only has them back for a year; they both plan to go to graduate school in the fall of 2012. Langer is applying for medical school. In the meantime, she's working as a scribe at Hoag Hospital.

"You walk around with the ER physicians and write down whatever needs to be recorded," Langer said. "I do most of the paperwork. I see a lot in the ER. It's pretty much the best experience I could have before medical school, as far as terminology goes and just being in that sort of environment."

Geocaris, who is an opera singer, has two competitions planned in the coming months. But she also plans to get her master's degree in music.

"I'm looking at a bunch of different schools, mostly conservatories," Geocaris said. "I'm in the process of applying, which entails putting together audition CDs and DVDs."

They're both as driven as people as they were as tennis players. But it's the latter category in which they could help the Lightning out this season.

Geocaris and Langer were thrust into starring roles in their freshman year of 2003. It was unexpected because two of the team's stronger players, Kelly Ammerman and Katie McKitterick, had just transferred to Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar, respectively.

"We were terrified," Langer said. "We were so nervous."

Sage Hill, which advanced to the CIF Division III title match last year before losing on games to rival St. Margaret's, should have no such reservations this year. The Lightning return seven of nine starters, including top singles players Liana Korber, Kimberly Brown and Casey Astorino and the No. 1 doubles team of Rian Billingsley and Katie Bick.

Now all of the players have female coaches who are relatively close to their age — Langer and Geocaris are both 22 — and have been there before. They know what it's like to contend for a CIF title.

"They're role models as individuals, and they command a lot of respect," Longoria said. "I know that if I wasn't here, they could run a varsity match or a JV match with their eyes closed."

Longoria said in the future, when a tennis complex is built on the Sage Hill campus, there will be a 2005 girls' tennis "Dream Team" plaque installed for all to see. Geocaris recalled how that fall, the girls' tennis team was racing the girls' volleyball team to see which would win Sage's first CIF title.

Volleyball won its title two days before tennis got its crown.

"We were battling with that team," Geocaris said. "I wanted to make a name for our team at Sage, and to be a respected team. I knew that by our success, it would definitely happen."

She and Langer are helping ensure that it continues to happen.

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