Mesa earns key win

COSTA MESA — As senior captains, Jacky Dang and Lisa Vu said they sometimes get nervous on the court for the Costa Mesa High girls' tennis team.

The Mustangs are fairly young, and Dang and Vu feel a certain sense of responsibility.

"I put more heart into it when I play now," Dang said. "Last year, I didn't really get nervous … but it's our team this year. We're captains, and I just feel like it's expected of us to try, to put forth effort. And I love tennis."

Dang and Vu swept Tuesday, winning 18 of 19 games. They helped make sure all of their teammates could love the result against crosstown rival Estancia as well.

Costa Mesa beat Estancia, 13-5, in the critical Orange Coast League match at Costa Mesa High.

Halfway through league play, the Mustangs sit at 3-2. They're in third place in the six-team league, behind only Laguna Beach and Calvary Chapel. Only the top three teams are guaranteed berths into the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

"There's three teams that are very even — Godinez, us and Estancia," Costa Mesa Coach Jan Migaki said. "It's good. We're through with our first round, so it kind of shows us the pecking order in the middle there … That's why this was a real sweet win. Plus, this was our rival."

After the win the Mustangs tried to dump some water on junior varsity coach Brett Sacks, but most of it ended up on the court. Luckily, they were more accurate during the actual match.

Mesa was consistent. Though the No. 1 doubles team of Dang and Vu was the only one to sweep, all three singles players — and the other two doubles teams — all won two of three sets.

Sophomore Mahina Won-Milho, junior Yurika Joi and sophomore Catherine Debbas each won twice in singles for Mesa. The doubles teams of Rachel Russell and Stephanie Rand, as well as Rose Valenzuela and Ciara Rudas, also won twice.

Russell and Rand went to a tiebreaker in their second-round match against Estancia's Leah Woodside and Serena Kao. Russell and Rand were down, 3-0, in the tiebreaker, but rallied for a 7-4 victory. That helped give the Mustangs an 8-4 lead after two rounds, and they also finished strong by winning five of six sets in the final round.

"I think it's pretty amazing, because our team's really young," Dang said. "For us to beat Estancia, our rivals, it means a lot. The determination that was out there today was just unbelievable. I'm so proud of everyone on our team."

Estancia (2-9, 1-4 in league) is even younger. Woodside and No. 1 singles player Christy Brown are the only two seniors for the Eagles, who graduated 11 varsity seniors from last year.

Brown swept all three of her sets Tuesday by identical 6-1 scores. The Eagles' other two set wins came from the No. 2 doubles team of Aphisara Siriungvkrai and Kenia Lara.

"I've been here for four years, and the rivalry's grown every year," Brown said. "It's fun, because it makes you so much more focused. I was more focused today than I think I've been during the season, so I started out really well. It was nice."

The Eagles could make things interesting in league if they could beat Godinez on Oct. 18 and Costa Mesa in the league finale, Oct. 27. Co-Coach Carlos Beltran said Estancia lost to Godinez, 11-7, the first time the teams met, but lost two tiebreaker sets.

"It depends on the day," Brown said. "I think we have a chance of getting [Costa Mesa] next time, so we'll probably just keep working hard in practice and try to bring it to the next match."

Costa Mesa will also keep getting better. The Mustangs don't want a repeat of last year, when they were the odd team out of the playoffs after a three-way tie for second place.

Mesa had no nonleague matches this year to prepare them for league, but Migaki wasn't worried about it because she said her team needed the practice time.

That was true for even the most experienced players, Dang and Vu, who are now 11-1 in league.

"When the pressure's not there, it's really hard to get into the groove of [matches]," Dang said. "But we played a bunch of sets during practice against the guys on our team. That helped a lot, because they're really good."

Twitter: @mjszabo

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