Girls' Tennis: Sage finishes fourth

NEWPORT BEACH — Sage Hill School sophomore Jaclyn Gerschultz is a three-sport star, as she also plays soccer and runs track.

Gerschultz also grew up playing softball, but the Lightning don't have a softball team.

It was on the tennis court Saturday at The Tennis Club where Gerschultz gained respect from her senior teammate and co-captain, Mara Beard. That respect came even in a loss, 8-1, to JSerra freshman Jadie Acidera at No. 1 singles in the Sage Hill Prep Classic.

"I was really proud of Jaclyn," Beard said. "I thought she really stuck out. She made that girl prove to her that she could hit every ball back, instead of Jaclyn just giving up because she knew the girl was going to beat her anyway. It was a triumphant loss, I guess you could say. She left the court with her dignity."

In a way that loss was symbolic of the weekend tournament for the Lightning. For though the hosts went 0-3 and finished fourth in the four-team round-robin tournament, Coach A.G. Longoria said his young Sage squad gained confidence for Academy League play, which begins Friday at home against Crean Lutheran.

Sage Hill is the defending league champion but returns just four starters from that team: junior Amira Tarsadia and sophomores Gerschultz, Celine Wang and Natalie Meltzer.

"We've moved forward," Longoria said. "We're a better team than we were three weeks ago, and I think we couldn't have prepared better for the start of league ... We're building not only for this season, but for the next couple of years."

The Lightning still dropped a pair of matches Saturday. They fell to St. Ignatius of San Francisco, 6-3, in the format featuring five singles sets and four doubles sets. They then lost to JSerra, 7-2. Sage Hill did have two representatives on the 12-player all-tournament team, junior Poonan Patel and sophomore Connie Yu.

Teams had the option of playing girls in both singles and doubles, but Longoria opted not to have any girls play both. He got a good look at more players that way, and he said he would likely set the team's singles and doubles lineups on Monday.

JSerra, which went 3-0 to win the tournament, featured senior Newport Beach resident Eliza Day. St. Ignatius finished second, and Bishop Gorman High of Las Vegas was third.

Sage was tied with St. Ignatius, 2-2, after the doubles round. Yu and senior co-captain Briana Rayhaun won at No. 2 doubles, while Patel and sophomore Marina Anderson won at No. 4 doubles.

Yu and Rayhaun had a memorable victory, winning seven straight games after starting in a 4-1 hole.

"We were the ones making the errors instead of them beating us," Rayhaun said. "We didn't want to lose that way, so we thought we'd try to get every one of our balls back. Once we did that, we kind of got the momentum going and built up the confidence."

But Sage could win just one singles set, as Gerschultz did so at No. 3 singles. Two other players came close, but Wang lost, 8-6, at No. 4 singles. Beard came back from a 5-1 deficit before falling in a tiebreaker, 8-7 (7-4) at No. 5 singles.

The match against JSerra, which had defeated Sage, 14-4, in a nonleague match on Tuesday, wasn't as close. Sophomore Katelyn Harvey won at No. 5 singles, and Patel and Yu won at No. 4 doubles.

But, despite the losses, the Lightning came out of the weekend, as Beard said, with their dignity intact.

"This year we only have two seniors on varsity," Beard said. "We have a really young team, so I think the most important thing is preparing everyone for the future. Although we won't be here, our team could be really great in a few years. The JV has been winning a lot too, which we're really proud of, because it provides promise for the future.

"[Longoria] is honestly such a lineup master. Throughout the years I've really realized that a lot of times you'll doubt his choices. He'll split partners up who play really well together, and put them on [different] teams so that both teams can win. I think that A.G. is honestly just a master of lineup strategy. He always stresses doubles to us, and how it's a really complex game. The other day in practice, we spent an hour going over the complexities of doubles, and I think that really helped us. We weren't getting blown away on the court [today]; a lot of the matches were really close."

Sage Hill plays host to Newport Harbor on Tuesday.

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