Boys' Tennis: Lightning strikes twice for Sailors

NEWPORT BEACH — Sage Hill School tennis coach A.G. Longoria joked with Newport Harbor Coach Kristen Case when it was time to hand out the awards Saturday evening.

Longoria said that Case's Sailors won the Lightning Invitational, hosted by Sage boys' tennis, "for the umpteenth time." It's understandable why Longoria is starting to feel that way.

Newport Harbor is two-time defending champion of the girls' Lightning Invitational. Now the Sailors can say the same thing on the boys' side.

Paced by gutsy performances from senior Christian Lee and sophomore Reese Stalder, Newport Harbor won the 10th annual tournament for the second straight year Saturday at The Tennis Club Newport Beach. The Sailors were undefeated against Tesoro, Oaks Christian and two different teams from Sage Hill.

Lee was voted the tournament singles MVP. He went 4-0 at No. 2 singles in the round-robin format, which included five singles sets and four doubles sets per match. Lee and Stalder, who normally both play singles for Newport Harbor, were the tournament doubles MVPs after also achieving a perfect 4-0 record.

"I'm so proud of the team for accomplishing this win together," Case said. "It was a great team win for us, and it gives us great momentum going into more of our preseason matches."

The Sailors won the close sets Saturday when they needed to do so. They beat Oaks Christian, 6-3, after a couple of big doubles victories, including a 6-4 victory by Lee and Stalder and a 7-6 victory by seniors Michael Eder and Adam Josephson. Eder and Josephson also were all-tournament team selections for Newport, as was junior Sean Perrier.

Gordon Strelow, a three-sport athlete at Sage Hill who just got done with the boys' soccer season, went 3-1 in singles and was the Lightning's lone all-tournament team selection.

Lee and Stalder's doubles win against Oaks Christian was lengthy, but they managed to get the job done. Stalder, who has great hands at the net, is ranked No. 1 in Southern California in boys' 16 doubles, and he's also up to No. 14 in singles.

"Reese is amazing," Lee said. "He feels very comfortable. With my serve, sometimes I feel unconfident, but with Reese, I know that if it goes in he's going to poach and kill it."

Newport Harbor then had to play its singles sets against Tesoro. The Sailors had won three doubles sets against Tesoro on Friday, so they only needed to win two of five singles sets to clinch the match and tournament.

But Stalder, who was the Lightning Invitational singles and doubles MVP as a freshman last year, has been battling a stomach muscle injury recently. He suffered his first loss of the tournament, a 6-4 setback to Tesoro's Jared Mel. Freshman Gavin Leonard won, so Newport needed one more win with two matches left on court.

Both went to tiebreakers. Perrier was edged by Tesoro's Chris Vasquez in one 'breaker, but Lee clinched the win by edging Michael Park, 7-6 (7-3), in the other.

Lee said he didn't know that he had to win the set for the Sailors to win the match. But he stepped up his game in the tiebreaker, winning five straight points after Park had a 3-2 lead.

"We needed to win one of those 'breakers, and they both fought extremely hard and played great," Case said. "Lee came up with it and did a fantastic job. He always steps up in pressure situations. I don't really think he knew at that moment. When the situations get tough, Lee always gets tougher. He always rises to the occasion, which is why he's one of our captains. He's a great leader."

Lee said the Sailors gained momentum from the tournament win, going into a big week where they play four nonleague matches in five days. Garrett Byers, Jerry Martin, David Schaefer and Phillip Vu also were key contributors for Newport Harbor.

Oaks Christian went 3-1 in the tournament for second place.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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