Girls' Tennis: Sage falls on games

NEWPORT BEACH — The Sage Hill School girls' tennis team had never lost before the quarterfinals in CIF. Visiting Pasadena Westridge had never made the quarterfinals of CIF.

Something had to give Friday afternoon at The Tennis Club.

After nearly four hours of tennis, the teams were deadlocked in sets, 9-9. But Westridge won on games, 79-66, ending the Lightning's season in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 second-round match.

The visiting Tigers roared back, even after being down, 4-2, after the first round and 7-5 after the second round. Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said it was only the second time in school history that a Lightning team has lost a match after being up 4-2.

The first time was in the 2006 Division 4 title match at The Claremont Club, when Sage fell to Valencia. The Lightning have since moved up divisions; this is their first year in Division 2.

"You know, they have good doubles, they have good singles," Longoria said of Westridge, an all-girls school. "I'm extremely proud. We fought, especially with so many freshmen. We had two freshmen [Jaclyn Gerschultz and Celine Wang] in the starting lineup. I think if we were still in Division 3, we'd still be rolling. But we're proud to be in Division 2 … There is just a difference between [Division] 4 and 3 and 2. There's a big difference, and we weren't quite up to it."

Sage Hill (9-9), the Academy League champion, was extremely close to advancing to Monday's quarterfinals. Instead, the Lightning lost on games in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

Sage had an 8-7 lead with three sets still on court.

"I knew we couldn't win on games," Longoria said. "You have to get that extra [10th] set."

Westridge (15-1) came through when Eileen Kwon and Annsley Matthiessen defeated Lauren Hsu and Gerschultz, 6-3. Then Westridge No. 2 singles player Lena Tavitian topped Sage's Liana Korber, 6-3.

The Sage sophomore doubles team of Natalie Meltzer and Amira Tarsadia won the final set in a tiebreaker, but the match had already been decided.

Seniors Kimberly Brown and Molly Wang swept at No. 2 doubles for the Lightning. Korber also pulled off an impressive feat, defeating Westridge No. 1 singles player Maral Tavitian, 6-4, in an 85-minute set to open the match.

It was the first loss of the year for Tavitian, who is now 47-1 this season. Korber also defeated No. 3 player Erin McDonald, 6-0.

The Tavitian sisters, plus McDonald, are a combined 131-7 this year for Westridge.

"We were told in a scouting report that we didn't have any singles players that could play with their singles players," Longoria said. "They're all more highly ranked than Liana, and Liana fought really, really hard and got two big wins. That gave us a shot."

Westridge Coach Jerry Rivera also commended Korber. He said facing his three singles players was kind of like climbing Mt. Everest.

But Matthiessen and Kwon won two of three doubles sets, which also turned out huge for the visitors.

"My girls came back and played through everything, even when we were down in the first and second rounds," Rivera said. "I mean, we never gave up … Our strength is in the singles, and if we manage to win a couple of sets in doubles I'm confident."

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