Girls' Tennis: CdM doubles up Dana Hills

DANA POINT — Corona del Mar High sophomore Siena Sharf simply smiled late Wednesday afternoon, when asked if CdM is turning some heads early in the girls' tennis season.

"Yes," Sharf said. "A lot, probably."

Point taken, especially after the Sea Kings' big 12-6 nonleague victory at Dana Hills.

Yes, that Dana Hills, the one that had a run of five straight years of making the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match before bowing out in the semifinals last year. Yes, that Dana Hills, the one that CdM hadn't beaten since the Sea Kings' memorable undefeated Division 1 championship team of 2006.

Watch out, Division 1. The Sea Kings are getting some of their swagger back.

Their doubles teams certainly had it Wednesday. The teams of seniors Kenzie Purcifull and Kimmia Naaseh, Sharf and freshman Jasie Dunk, as well as junior Taylor Fogarty and sophomore Erica Chen, all swept the Dolphins.

CdM Coach Brian Ricker said coming into the match he had no idea what the score would be, with the Sea Kings (2-0) on the upswing and the Dolphins (0-1) losing several key graduates from last year. But the word that Ricker used to describe sweeping Dana Hills in doubles? "Unbelievable."

"When I was watching them warm up, their girls looked so strong," Ricker said. "I thought there was a chance that we might get swept in doubles, but our girls kept to their game plan, especially with Kenzie and Taylor both having to charge the net all the time. With those girls ripping the ball as hard as they were, they didn't back off, and we ended up getting them in rallies. We forced errors out of them, and our girls executed up at the net."

The match was tied at 3-3 after the first round, only after a clutch 7-6 (7-2) victory by Purcifull and Naaseh at No. 1 doubles over Dana Hills senior Katie Olson and sophomore Ayla Fresinius. Purcifull and Naaseh rallied from 5-3 down in the set.

Corona del Mar then took control in the second round, winning five of six sets. The doubles teams all swept, and No. 1 singles player Lauren Thaxter and No. 2 Riley Gerdau each earned victories as well.

Thaxter, a senior and four-year starter, bounced back from a tough 6-1 opening-round loss to Dana Hills senior Margo Pletcher, who swept. Thaxter, who Ricker said is CdM's game-day captain, still earned two important singles victories.

"She leads by example on the court," Ricker said. "She never, ever gives up."

With the doubles teams sweeping, three singles sets was more than enough. Fogarty and Chen finished the match off, winning their last set in a tiebreaker as well.

Sharf and Dunk won their sets, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. It's funny in a way that they would be playing doubles together this year for CdM, as Sharf's mother, Tracey, and Dunk's father, Chris, both played tennis at Foothill High. They both went on to play in college, Tracey at the University of Arizona and Chris at UC Berkeley. Chris also played on the pro tour, reaching No. 35 in the world in doubles.

Their underclassmen daughters both seem to have bright futures in the sport as well. For now, they are key pieces of CdM's dynamic doubles teams.

"I feel like we've never played this way before, our team," Siena Sharf said. "It's kind of surprising, but ... we're only going to keep getting better and better. We just have to win doubles, and we have to get at least one singles [set]."

Ricker said he realized that CdM, which won the California Girls' Tennis Classic last weekend in Clovis and topped Tesoro on Tuesday, had a bit of a head start on Dana Hills.

"They're probably going to get better, but we'll take the win," Ricker said. "They're still working the kinks out, and our girls are coming into form pretty nicely. They've really improved over the last week.

"I knew we were going to have pretty good doubles. Going up against [University] and Peninsula, that's going to be a different level. But yeah, to already be at this level where they're playing mistake-free and being aggressive at the net? We've got some teams that are playing well together and we're only two matches in, so it's a huge plus for us."

CdM's next match also is key, as the Sea Kings travel to Newport Harbor on Tuesday for the Battle of the Bay.

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