NEWPORT BEACH — After feasting on its competition, the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis team feasted on some big sugar cookies late Tuesday afternoon.
Each famous frosted cookie, from Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop on Balboa Island, was the shape of a hippopotamus. The cookies had M&M;'s for eyes.
Yet, as tasty as the treats were, the action on the court was probably sweeter and ultimately more satisfying for the Sea Kings.
They dominated Back Bay rival Newport Harbor at the Sailors' courts, 16-2, to win the Battle of the Bay for the second straight year.
"The most interesting thing about playing Newport Harbor is that no matter if one school is way favored, they're both nervous," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. "Everyone's nervous. It's fun, and you can't recreate that atmosphere. That's why this rivalry is important to keep going, even if the score is not close ... it's fun that way."
Corona del Mar (3-0), ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, had no reason to be nervous throughout the match. This was true, even as Newport Harbor Coach Kristen Case stacked her lineup, putting both top singles player Kate Knight and top doubles team Kendall Cosenza and Anna Burke at the No. 3 positions. The strategy is designed to give a team a fast start.
But it didn't work Tuesday for the Sailors (5-4). CdM's No. 3 doubles team of junior Taylor Fogarty and sophomore Erica Chen topped Cosenza and Burke, 6-3. And CdM junior Shelby Anderson topped Knight, 6-2, in the opening round.
"That was huge," Ricker said. "When they play the funny lineup, if you can beat them at our [No.] 3 versus their [No.] 1, it sets the tone for the rest of the day."
Did it ever. CdM had a 6-0 lead after a round, and 12-0 after two rounds. The doubles teams of seniors Kenzie Purcifull and Kimmia Naaseh, sophomore Siena Sharf and freshman Jasie Dunk, as well as Fogarty and Chen, each won twice for the Sea Kings before being subbed out.
The subs also performed well. Seniors Robin Caston and Gigi Gill captured a 6-1 victory. And, in the last set on court, CdM senior Jamie Adamson and sophomore Paige Kenerson saved two set points in the tiebreaker to defeat Cosenza and Burke, 7-6 (8-6).
"I'm really pleased with how our season is going so far," Fogarty said. "I feel like all of our doubles teams have been doing very well. Even at practice, we're always getting better every day. Everyone gets along really well, and it makes it a lot easier."
CdM was equally dominant in singles, where it also won eight of nine sets. Anderson swept at No. 3 singles, 6-2, 6-0, 6-1, and junior Riley Gerdau also won twice before being subbed out. Her substitute, senior Karina Ryabokonova, also won by a 6-4 score.
Senior Lauren Thaxter won her first set before she was subbed out due to not feeling well, and she headed home. CdM sophomore Elena Fish subbed in to win a set.
"We just have a really good team put together this year, both singles and doubles," Chen said. "It's a really good combination to win. Winning today and having winning streaks and all that, it makes us feel good. It makes us prepared for the challenges that are going to come up ahead ... it prepares us for more pressure in the future."
Newport Harbor earned both of its set wins in the final round. Senior co-captain Reagan Rutter and partner Annie LaGrandeur, a junior, defeated a CdM doubles substitute team, 6-4. Knight, the Sailors' other co-captain, earned a 7-5 victory in singles.
For the Sailors, the Battle of the Bay concluded a very tough three-match stretch that also included Mira Costa, which is ranked No. 5 in Division 1, and Tesoro.
"Our focus was coming out and focusing on the things that we could control, which was competing hard and staying positive, never give up and make your opponents earn it," Case said. "Our whole preseason schedule is set up to be a process, to gear us toward the quickest type of improvement we can make ... The last three matches we played were against really tough teams, and you need to play those teams in order to get better. You're not going to get better without being challenged. I'm really thankful that we were able to play CdM today, because it's a learning process, and you learn the most from playing teams like that.
"I'm really proud of the way my girls compete. They don't get down; they continue to fight. It's really going to show up for us in a couple of weeks time, when it all starts clicking. Their mindset's there, now just technically it's going to start clicking."
Both Back Bay teams have good tests in their next matches, too. CdM plays at Santa Margarita, which is just out of the Division 1 top 10 but ranked No. 5 in Orange County by the Register, on Wednesday. Newport Harbor plays host to St. Margaret's, ranked No. 10 in Division 2, on Thursday.