Sage duo makes history

CORONA DEL MAR — Everyone else had gone home, but Alex Manolakas and Eric Magliarditi were still on the court at Corona del Mar High.

As 4 p.m. neared, the Sage Hill School doubles team was entering the seventh hour of its workday at the CIF Southern Section Individuals regionals. Manolakas and Magliarditi were locked in an intense match with Ricky Kurtz and Max Boice of Santa Margarita.

Manolakas and Magliarditi survived, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). In doing so, they made history.

Their third win of the day made them the first player or doubles team in Lightning boys' tennis history to advance out of the CIF Individuals regionals. Manolakas and Magliarditi, who have played at No. 1 doubles all year for Sage Hill, will likely play in the Round of 32 on Thursday at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center.

There were five regionals on Friday throughout the Southern Section, and 20 total doubles teams advanced. The eight lowest-seeded teams are required to play in the Round of 32 "play-in" round on Thursday.

Manolakas and Magliarditi are just happy to move on.

"It was the last thing that I wanted to do in my high school career," said Manolakas, a senior who helped Sage win a Division 3 team title last year but who had never won a round at Individuals before. "It's great to just win a round ... I had [making history] in the back of my mind when we were playing. It feels really good."

Manolakas and Magliarditi, a sophomore, came up big. So did Corona del Mar High senior Alex Murray and his freshman partner Henry Gordon.

Murray and Gordon also advanced, more-than-likely to the Round of 16 on Friday at Seal Beach Tennis Center. After a first-round bye, they rolled past Timmy Pham and David Nguyen of Garden Grove Santiago, 6-0, 6-1. They then topped Darren Dinh and Evan Nguyen of Huntington Beach, 6-3, 6-1.

Murray, playing in his first CIF Individuals, said his motivation is simple. He wants to make the championship match. That would earn him and Gordon, the Pacific Coast League doubles finalists, a CIF plaque at the CdM tennis courts.

"I want to say we have a good chance," said Murray, headed to the University of Wisconsin for academics. "I want to get a plaque up there. I want to be next to [2010 CIF Individuals doubles finalists] Ryan Peyton and Shane Korber. It really does [mean a lot]. It's kind of like our Hall of Fame.

"[CIF Individuals] is a good experience. Whenever I get to skip a Friday of school and play tennis, it always means something. It's the All-American Tournament, or I'm going to Ojai; it's something important. And especially on our home courts, it's really cool."

CdM Coach Brian Ricker said the goal was simply to advance. Murray and Gordon, who each have strong serving games, did so.

So did Manolakas and Magliarditi, but it definitely wasn't easy. In their first match they cruised through Rumesh Balendran and Kevin Chang of Cerritos, 6-1, 6-1. But they faced a severe challenge in their second match, against Derek Levchenko and Chris Lew of Redondo Union.

The match went to a third-set super-tiebreaker to 10 points. In the super-tiebreaker, Manolakas and Magliarditi saved four match points before finally prevailing, 6-2, 3-6, 13-11.

The games of Manolakas, a lefty, and Magliarditi seem to complement each other well.

"I would say, especially with my serve, a lot of people have trouble returning it," Magliarditi said. "If they do, [Manolakas] is so big he just knocks it off. Also, my ground strokes are probably better than my volleys. I can usually stay consistent. [Manolakas] doesn't have to poach every point; he can just stay back and wait for the opportunity."

The other part of the Sage contingent, senior Robbe Simon, had a frustrating day in singles. He was forced to forfeit his first-round match against Jenteel Alcafaras of Long Beach Wilson, with Alcafaras leading, 6-5, in the first set.

Simon, who is bound for Stanford for academics, advanced to the third round at CIF Individuals last year. But he said Friday he was feeling a bit dizzy and nauseous.

"Everything kind of feels really off-balance and stuff," Simon said in the CdM parking lot, about to head home. "My head's still spinning. I'm just really upset that would happen today. I was really looking forward to playing this [tournament]. It's just a fluke, like why does that happen, you know? I've just got to deal with it, I guess. I just didn't think it was worth it, going through that match like that."

Costa Mesa senior Tam Le and freshman Max Nguyen nearly played Murray and Gordon in the second round. But Le and Nguyen, the Orange Coast League doubles champions, fell to Pham and Nguyen of Santiago, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7, in a first-round match.

But the Mustangs' Le, in his first CIF Individuals, said he really enjoyed the experience.

"It's the best match I've ever played," he said. "It's my last one, too, so no regrets."

Manolakas and Magliarditi, as well as Murray and Gordon, now have tennis-packed weeks next week. Sage Hill plays league rival Whitney in a Division 3 semifinal match Monday at Cerritos Regional Park. The next day, Corona del Mar plays Harvard-Westlake in a Division 1 semifinal match at Los Angeles Valley College.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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