Sage Hill moves on to semis

NEWPORT BEACH — After an exhausting, emotionally-charged set in which Sage Hill School's No. 3 doubles team of Garrett Rapport and Sam Sherman lost, 7-6 (7-4), the pair had two choices.

The first was to let the tough loss to Chad Holden and Austin Sinclair of Vista Murrieta, which included a controversial call in the tiebreaker, get to them. The second was to forget about it, move on and win the final-round doubles set.

The Lightning duo chose the latter route, winning two out of three doubles sets to help their team top the Broncos, 11-7, in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinal match at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, in the semifinals, Academy League No. 3 team and defending CIF Division 3 champion Sage Hill (12-10) will travel to Cerritos to play at Whitney, the No. 2 seed that swept the Lightning in league by razor-thin scores of 9-9 (74-67 on games) and 11-7.

Whitney, the Academy League champion, beat Long Beach Wilson, 11-7, in the quarterfinals.

St. Margaret's, the Academy League's runner-up, edged Cerritos on Tuesday, 9-9 (77-75 on games), to advance to the semifinals on the opposite side of the Lightning's bracket.

"Our doubles have to get us seven wins; 11-7 is really big for us," Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said. "We can't blow anybody away. We don't have the depth like we did last year. Garrett and Sam moving on to win like that, that was huge. They came through for us, gave us an insurance lead."

Rapport, a senior and a third-year varsity player, teamed up with Sherman, a fiery transfer from Minnesota, to win the final-round set, 6-2, over Mikael Carpenter and Garrett Arnold. That victory was part of Sage Hill's doubles dominance, as it won eight out of nine sets.

"We held first break [in the loss]," Rapport said. "We let down a little bit. Going into the tiebreaker, we were a little frustrated. Sam and I forgot everything and just played."

The Lightning received a critical singles sweep from Robbe Simon, a senior co-captain who won his sets, 6-0, 6-1 and 6-0.

Simon's 6-1 win over freshman Michael White of Vista Murrieta (16-5), a very tall player, certainly didn't have the usual feel of a rout. The left-handed Simon had to fight through hard serves, very sharp ground strokes and a good backhand. But White was his own worst enemy, smacking shots into the net for more than a dozen unforced errors. White and fellow freshman Christian Francisco, a fundamentally sound opponent, both won two out of three sets to keep Vista Murrieta within striking distance.

"It was probably just consistency," Simon said. "I out-rallied my opponents. My serve was better, I had more aces than I normally do. We've got to get past Whitney. The pressure's on them. It'll be exciting."

Another advantage for Sage Hill was the tall pair of 6-foot-4 senior Alex Manolakas and 6-foot-1 Denis Cirit, who swept their doubles sets, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-0.

Manolakas used his speed, height and hard left-handed serving and hitting, combined with Cirit's high-energy, ball-punishing shot-making and well-placed shots at the net.

"We use a doubles drill since my freshman year," Manolakas said. "In terms of poaching, or taking baseline shots headed for your partner, we did well."

Cirit, a strong player who looks more like a football player, added: "We like to start with our serves. It's a huge advantage for us. Teams can't really lob us. Our big serves always help us."

Also winning some crucial sets was the Sage Hill doubles team of Ryan Lee and Eric Magliarditi, who won 6-3, 6-2 and 6-1.

"Ryan Lee moved from the No. 2 singles spot to help us in doubles," Longoria said. "He has a cyst on his wrist. We put him in doubles only after coming to a compromise with his doctor. He really stepped up for us."

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