NEWPORT BEACH — The match started at 5:30 p.m., two-and-a-half hours later than normal for a CIF playoff match.
The reason for the time change was simple. The Sage Hill School boys' tennis team had two starters, junior Sam Sherman and sophomore Eric Magliarditi, in an Advanced Placement European History test on Friday afternoon. Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said visiting La Palma Kennedy had four players in the same test.
Soon after the test ended at 4 p.m., Sherman was facing a different test. He was on the tennis court this time, the one in the far corner at The Tennis Club Newport Beach, and he and senior doubles partner Garrett Rapport were in a battle at No. 3 doubles with Kennedy's Matt Lin and Roy Kim.
They were the last set on court in the first round. Win, and the Lightning had a 4-2 lead. Lose, and Sage was in a 3-3 tie.
Rapport told Longoria not to tell him what the overall match score was. Sherman said after the match that he didn't mind knowing.
"We just knew we had to win," said Sherman, the transfer from Minnesota.
They did, rallying from a 5-3 deficit to win the set, 7-5. The Lightning never looked back, breezing past Kennedy, 14-4, in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 second-round match.
Sage Hill, the defending CIF champion, plays host to Vista Murrieta in a quarterfinal match on Tuesday. The Lightning won the pre-flip.
Vista Murrieta defeated Redlands, 12-6, in another second-round match Friday.
"It feels nice," Rapport said. "After last year, we've got some big expectations. We're definitely looking for the title this year ... It's pressure we're putting on ourselves. But at the same time, I'm a senior this year, Robbe [Simon] is a senior, Alex [Manolakas] is a senior. We've all been on the team for a long time. It just would be a nice way to cap it off."
Since Sage (11-10) finished third in the Academy League, it was forced to play a wild-card match. Friday was the Lightning's third match in four days.
They still looked good in doubles, winning eight of nine sets. The No. 1 team of Manolakas and senior Denis Cirit, as well as the No. 2 team of Magliarditi and Ryan Lee, both swept. Sherman and Rapport took two of three sets.
Simon earned a "triple bagel" with a trio of 6-0 sets at No. 1 singles for the Lightning, who have changed their lineup. Longoria said that was necessary, as Lee has a cyst on his right wrist.
"We sort of made a compromise with the doctors, that he'd only play doubles," Longoria said. "He had his wrist drained this week, and I know he's been in a lot of pain. The good thing is that he can play doubles or singles. He's a great team guy. He's a co-captain, and he'll do whatever it takes."
Longoria said he was expecting a closer match Friday. The gap was wider because of a pair of impressive singles wins. Sophomore lefty David Kim, a transfer from Mater Dei, won twice, including a 7-5 victory over Kennedy No. 1 singles player William Park. And Sage freshman Gordon Strelow subbed in for a 6-1 victory over Park.
"We were planning on only getting three in singles," Longoria said. "I think they kind of stacked their doubles a little bit ... We're so thin. I was thinking [it would be] 10-8; 10-8 for us this year is a blowout. We just don't have the depth. We've got to make sure that Robbe doesn't lose any, and No. 1 doubles doesn't lose any."
Keisuke Fukazawa won a pair of singles sets for Kennedy (12-6), the second-place team from the Empire League. But the Lightning had a 9-3 lead after the second round and clinched the match shortly after.
If Sage Hill can get past Vista Murrieta, a semifinal match against Academy League champion Whitney could loom. No. 2-seeded Whitney defeated Sage both times in league, 11-7 and 10-8.
"I think the pressure's going to be on them," Longoria said. "They beat us twice, so they're supposed to win ... Let's hope we get there."