Breakers end with win

IRVINE — In terms of Mylan World Team Tennis playoff positioning, Wednesday night's regular-season finale between the Orange County Breakers and Springfield Lasers meant absolutely nothing.

The Lasers had already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference, while the Breakers had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

But the Breakers still gave fans their money's worth in the season finale at Bren Events Center.

Steve Johnson and Treat Huey won the final set of men's doubles as well as the ensuing super-tiebreaker, as Orange County captured a 20-19 victory to end its season.

The Breakers, who snapped a four-match losing streak, finished the year 7-7. Johnson, the former Orange High and USC star, said he really enjoyed his first season of World Team Tennis.

"It was fun," Johnson said. "The travel was definitely a grind, but the teammates, all the people involved were awesome. It was a great experience for me to play at home again. It was definitely a fun experience, and I'll definitely look back with fond memories of this year."

Springfield (9-5) will play host to Texas in the Western Conference Championship on Thursday, while two-time defending league champion Washington plays host to Boston in the Eastern Conference Championship. The winners play in the WTT Finals on Sunday.

The Breakers, who miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, played in front of sometimes sparse crowds this season. But Coach Trevor Kronemann said he hopes the team stays at UC Irvine "for many more years to come."

"It was a tough season," Kronemann said. "We had our chances, and we let it slip away a little bit. We had a couple of matches where we could have made the playoffs, and it didn't happen for us. But we finished .500. It's good for the fans that we won our last match.

"It's great to see this many people out when we're not in contention for a playoff spot. Tonight was a pretty good crowd, actually. I'm hoping that will carry over into next season, and people will start coming into the Bren Center and seeing some great tennis … It's a great atmosphere for kids and for families. Maybe we just need to win a little bit more. You know, L.A. crowds are fickle, they're tough. You're not winning, people aren't going to come out. So, you know, fair enough."

Johnson and Huey at least made sure the finale was a win. They defeated J.L. de Jager and Rik De Voest, 5-3, in men's doubles to force a 19-19 tie. They then dominated the super-tiebreaker, 7-1.

The Breakers dug out of a hole Wednesday. Johnson and Liga Dekmeijere fell in mixed doubles to Jean-Julien Rojer and Vania King, 5-1, to open the match. But Dekmeijere and Maria Elena Camerin came back to top Alisa Kleybanova and King, 5-3, in women's doubles.

After Johnson beat De Voest, 5-3, in men's singles, the match was tied at 11-all. But Kleybanova gave her team the lead again after beating Camerin, 5-3, in women's singles. That set the stage for Johnson and Huey's heroics.

Johnson finished the season second in the league in men's singles, only behind Bobby Reynolds of Washington. And Newport Beach resident Coco Vandeweghe, who missed the final five matches due to playing at the Bank of the West Classic, was second in the league in women's singles.

Johnson and Huey were also second in the league in men's doubles. But Orange County finished just sixth in women's doubles, and last of the eight teams in mixed doubles.

In 2012, Orange County finished seventh in the league in mixed doubles.

"Numbers don't lie," Kronemann said. "Mixed doubles hurt us a little this year … That was our weak spot, and hopefully we can improve upon that next year."

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