High Schools: Newport's Bathen, Cosenza stand out

Kristen Case called it one of the top three matches she has seen as a girls' tennis coach at Newport Harbor High.

The fact that seniors Megan Bathen and Kaitlyn Cosenza were involved wasn't surprising.

Top-seeded Sarah Edwards and Sophia Bott of Los Alamitos edged second-seeded Bathen and Cosenza, 6-4, 6-7, 10-3, in the Sunset League doubles final Oct. 18 at Los Al.

The level of play was spectacular from both duos, Case said. They both qualified for CIF Individuals, which begin Nov. 19.

"It brought out the best in both teams," Case said. "Regardless of what the outcome was going to be, you knew you were going to get great tennis. They were so dead-even, and it makes for great competition."

One thing Case knows is that Bathen and Cosenza will be ready to play for the Sailors. Newport Harbor, which finished second in the Sunset League, is preparing for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Corona del Mar will also be in the Division 1 draw, set to be released at 11 a.m. Monday. Sage Hill and Estancia are in the Division 2 playoffs.

The playoffs begin on Halloween. It is scary how good Bathen and Cosenza have become.

As the only two returning starters from last year's Sunset League champions and Division 2 finalists, they have been invaluable for Newport Harbor. A mainstay at No. 1 doubles, they have a 41-6 record this year. In league, they were 25-3.

But they have also been team players for the Sailors, whose bracelets read, "Teamwork makes the dream work." Players on the team call Cosenza, "Mother hen," because she always takes care of them.

"People read it in the paper," Cosenza said. "I've been asked, 'Oh, you guys lost all these people, what are you going to do this year? I know you lost all your good players.' It's kind of discouraging, but then again it's very motivational. I want to go out and prove these people wrong. Yes, we did lose a lot of great players … but I just love every girl on the team so much. We're not just teammates, we're friends.

"It's kind of a learning experience. Winning is so important, but it's more the camaraderie and the relationships that are made that really matter in the end. I'm just so happy that this year I got to meet so many great girls and become friends with them. I think that's more important than the end result."

Earlier this year, Bathen and Cosenza both won key singles sets as the Sailors rallied to defeat Sage Hill, 5-4, in the deciding match of the Lightning Invitational at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.

Bathen and Cosenza lost once to Edison and once to Los Al in the first round of league. In the second round of league, they went undefeated.

Three days before league finals, Bathen and Cosenza swept the Griffins in the final league dual match. That included a tiebreaker victory over Edwards and Bott, in which the Sailors duo rallied from a 4-0 games deficit and saved four set points. They impressed, even as Los Alamitos won on games to end Newport Harbor's four-year league championship streak.

Bathen has been a league doubles finalist each of the last three years, winning it last year with Mindy Wheeler over Edwards and Bott. Cosenza has elevated her play after she was part of the Sailors' No. 3 doubles team last year.

"They've been extremely resilient," Case said. "They've continuously gotten better every week. That was their main goal, as well as our team's, and they stuck to it. And before every match, they're leading the team huddles and getting everyone fired up. They're setting a great standard, and they're both extremely humble. They're more interested in the team getting the accolades, and I really respect that a lot about them.

"I definitely owe a large part of our team's success this season to their leadership, and the way in which they've corralled the team together and made everybody around them better, both on and off the court."

They have definitely been leaders as the Sailors eye the playoffs. Bathen said she had to sit out a few days of practice recently due to her ankle and elbow, but had fun in her rare role as a spectator.

"The last few days were super-hot, but everyone pushed through it," Bathen said. "It was crazy how well everyone was playing. It was fun to watch."

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Corona del Mar High senior swimmer Brynne Wong has committed to the University of Texas, she said Saturday.

Wong said she fell in love with the school when she went there for a meet last December.

"When I got to meet all the girls, I just felt like part of the team," she said.

Wong, who swims club at Aquazot, competed at the Olympic trials last summer. She is the CdM record-holder in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, events in which she finished third and second, respectively, at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals last May at Riverside City College.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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