CORONA DEL MAR — The player introductions were done, and it was time to get Thursday's key Pacific Coast League girls' tennis match underway.
Mother Nature had different plans.
"It was sprinkling a little bit during introductions," Corona del Mar Coach Brian Ricker said. "As they were walking on the courts, all of a sudden the big, gigantic drops came. All of the girls were like, 'Oh my God, those are big drops!'"
The teams decided to wait out the rain. After players from the boys' team helped dry the courts, the match against Northwood started about an hour behind schedule. But that was all right for those with evening plans.
The Sea Kings made quick work of the Timberwolves, earning a dominant 14-4 victory. The win kept them solidly in second place in league, and in position to return to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs after missing them last year.
"We're definitely improving a lot," said CdM senior Sophia Chen, who swept at No. 2 doubles with freshman partner Siena Sharf. "I think our doubles have improved a lot, and even our singles have gotten better and more consistent."
Corona del Mar (11-4, 5-2 in league) swept in doubles against Northwood (10-6, 3-3). The No. 1 team of junior Kenzie Purcifull and sophomore Riley Gerdau won twice before being subbed out, and seniors Shea O Hill and Skylar Dapp won in the final round.
CdM junior Kimmia Naaseh and sophomore Taylor Fogarty also won three times at No. 3 doubles. In the last round, they saved two match points in a 7-6 (7-5) victory over Elizabeth Yu and Juanna Xie of Northwood.
The doubles sweep led to an even easier win than the 13-5 result the first time the teams played, even as junior Lauren Thaxter was not feeling well and did not play Thursday. Ricker said his doubles players have been able to drastically reduce their number of unforced errors.
"We've been able to work more in practice on specific strategy for each team, and it's paying off," Ricker said. "What's nice is that all three teams play a different strategy, as opposed to some years in the past where I had every girl doing the exact same thing. It's more difficult on the opponents."
Purcifull and Gerdau typically both play at the net, while Chen and Sharf play the more traditional CdM "one up, one back" strategy. Fogarty plays at the net, while her partner Naaseh stays at the baseline.
"It's three completely different strategies, and they're all getting better at it," Ricker said.
Northwood junior Chloe Pham won 18 of her 19 games, easily sweeping at No. 1 singles for the Timberwolves. But senior Olivia Dajee won twice in singles for the Sea Kings, before her attention turned to the Awolnation concert she was attending Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles. Sophomore Shelby Anderson and freshman Erica Chen also each won a set for the Sea Kings.
Erica Chen is Sophia's younger sister, who had been playing at No. 1 singles on junior varsity. She was called up this week; the match against Northwood was her second varsity match.
She was the young Sea Kings' second freshman starter, Sharf being the first who has played varsity all season.
"The first match was really scary, against Newport Harbor," Sharf said. "I played No. 3 singles, so that was pretty scary, but after that I kind of got used to it. The team has really helped me get more comfortable with everything, and they're really nice. They're not like mean or anything."
CdM can clinch second place in league by defeating Woodbridge on the road on Oct. 18. The Warriors are also 3-3 in league.
Until then, the Sea Kings continue to expect improvement.
"We just keep getting more consistent and more consistent," Sharf said.