Peninsula too strong for CdM

PALOS VERDES — Since becoming the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis coach in 2004, Brian Ricker has had his share of matches with Palos Verdes Peninsula.

CdM and Peninsula consistently have been two of the best programs in CIF Southern Section Division 1. But when the Sea Kings and the Panthers actually play their matches, nail-biting isn't usually required.

In some years, CdM has been clearly superior. In other years, Peninsula has dominated.

"We've never had a close match, even though we're both pretty much near the top every year," Ricker said. "I think probably the closest match we've ever had is 13-5."

It was clear to see who had the edge in Wednesday's nonleague match at Peninsula.

The Panthers are among the favorites in Division 1 this year. They showed it throughout their 14-4 victory over CdM. But Ricker, whose Sea Kings (4-1) suffered their first loss of the season, was OK with it.

"You know, we can't just always play teams that we can beat," Ricker said. "I think a match like this is a reality check, and excellent competition for us. It just makes us get better. They're just a little too talented for us."

Peninsula (1-0) is coming off a CIF semifinal appearance a year ago. Coach Tom Cox said he has at least six returners, make it seven if sophomore standout Kenadi Hance decides to play for Peninsula this year.

The Panthers left nothing to chance against the Sea Kings, jumping out to a 12-0 lead after two rounds. None of the sets were closer than 6-3.

Junior Annika Ringblom, freshman Ena Shibihara and junior Jasmine Hosseini each won twice in singles. The doubles teams of Risa Nakagawa and Gala Strong, Sachi Carlson and Cara Kemp, as well as Rachel Martinez and Sarah Khattab, were similarly dominant.

Martinez and Khattab even outlasted CdM's No. 1 team of Kenzie Purcifull and Riley Gerdau, 7-6, in their final set of the day. That was the kind of effort Cox liked to see from his team, which figures to be ranked in the top four in Division 1 when the first poll comes out next week.

"We'll be in the top four, I don't know what order," Cox said. "We play pretty much everybody, so we'll get a good view of where we stand. I have to say [defending champion] Dana Hills looks the toughest to me right now, but we'll see."

Peninsula plays host to Dana Hills in a key early-season match on Tuesday.

For the Sea Kings, who travel to this weekend's Fresno tournament on Thursday, there were also positives. Junior Lauren Thaxter suffered her first two set losses of the year, but played well in falling to Ringblom and Shibihara. In doubles, Ricker said he felt like his teams of Purcifull and Gerdau, Olivia Chen and Shelby Anderson, as well as Kimmia Naaseh and Taylor Fogarty, all did a good job of sticking to their strategies against a hard-hitting team like Peninsula.

All of CdM's set wins came against substitutes in the final round. Senior Olivia Dajee won, 6-0, and freshman Siena Sharf earned a tiebreaker victory. So did Chen and Anderson, while the senior doubles team of Maddie Hayward and Skylar Dapp subbed in for a 6-1 victory.

Ricker, who puts together the Division 1 poll, said the division is as deep as he has seen it. University and Campbell Hall are also in the top four discussion, while Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks also are very strong.

The Sea Kings might be on the downside of their rivalry with Peninsula this year, but they will keep working to get better.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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