Bakkila injury a blessing in disguise

Blake Bakkila said she's a more complete tennis player in her senior year at Newport Harbor High.

Part of it may be natural progression for the Sailors' No. 1 singles player, but part of it is also because she didn't have a choice. For a few months earlier this year, Bakkila's biggest weapon — her two-handed backhand — just wasn't an option.

This was because Bakkila had surgery on her left wrist in March to take care of some torn ligaments.

"Toward the end of the season and beginning of CIF [last year], it started hurting really badly," she said. "I didn't really know what it was. It just seemed to be getting worse. I just played with some tape around my wrist for the rest of CIF."

Bakkila took it easy after helping Newport Harbor reach the Division II championship match, and got the surgery on St. Patrick's Day. After the surgery, she went to physical therapy for 12 weeks. In tennis, she could only hit forehands and backhand slices and missed some junior tournaments.

Her mother Corey, who also played tennis at Newport Harbor, joked that the scars on her daughter's left wrist make her look like Frankenstein. But Blake is now back playing pain free — and playing well. She helped Newport Harbor win its second straight Pacific Challenge World Team Tennis competition in August, and she was the singles MVP at the Sage Hill-hosted Lightning Invitational earlier this month.

She swept in singles in last week's Battle of the Bay victory over Corona del Mar, as well as Monday's win over Sage Hill. "Blakers," as she's known on the team, found the silver lining in her injury woes.

"I didn't play for a few months with my left wrist," Bakkila said. "I just worked on forehands, serves and volleys. I feel like it's kind of made my game more complete. My backhand was really my big shot, and now I have many more options to use while I'm playing. That was a blessing in disguise, I guess."

Bakkila is just a blessing to Newport Harbor Coach Kristen Case, whose team, ranked No. 2 in Division II, opens Sunset League play Thursday against Edison.

"She is one of the most humble players I've ever coached," Case said. "I can't say enough great things about her. She's so mentally tough, and she has the strongest passion for the game and for her team. I'm so lucky to have her at the No. 1 position."


The Mater Dei boys' water polo team might have made a lasting impression with its 16-7 victory over Newport Harbor in the South Coast Tournament final on Saturday.

The Monarchs and the Sailors, the top two teams in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll, won't see each other again before the Division I playoffs. Defending CIF champion Mater Dei isn't entered into the Sailors' other two in-season tournaments, the S&R Sport Cup on Oct. 7-8 and the FINIS Memorial Cup in San Jose on Oct. 28-29. And the teams don't have a nonleague match scheduled this year.

"[Winning the South Coast Tournament final] is a huge game for us, as far as seedings going into CIF and getting ready," Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman said.

Newport Harbor (7-1) does have a big nonleague home game on Friday against Loyola of Los Angeles. The game is a rematch of the South Coast Tournament semifinals, when Newport Harbor rallied for a 10-7 win.


Newport Harbor graduate Sarah Wilkey was recently named a first-team girls' water polo All-American, after helping Huntington Beach Water Polo Club win gold at the Junior Olympics this summer.

The UCLA-bound Wilkey played in goal as Huntington Beach defeated Santa Barbara, 6-5, in the 18-and-under girls' platinum division championship match Aug. 7 at Woollett Aquatics Center.

CdM senior Diana Murphy was an honorable mention after helping CdM Aquatics finish ninth at JOs. CdM eighth grader Maddie Musselman was also an honorable mention in the 14-and-unders, as she helped CdM finish 12th.

In the boys' divisions, Newport grad Chris Whitelegge (UC Santa Barbara) was an honorable mention for SOCAL Black, which finished ninth in the 18s.

Newport Beach resident Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt was a first-team All-American after helping SOCAL Black win the 12-and-under division. Newport's Jack Seybold was an honorable mention in the same division after helping Orange County Water Polo Club finish 10th.

Selections were based off the finish of each club at JOs, and athletes were submitted by their club.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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