Girls' Tennis: Uni stays ahead of CdM

IRVINE — Before the week started, Corona del Mar High girls' tennis coach Brian Ricker leveled with his team.

The Sea Kings, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1, had a tough trio of matches. They played at Woodbridge on Tuesday, played host to No. 5 Mira Costa on Wednesday and played at No. 2 University on Thursday.

Ricker told his girls the Mira Costa match was most important, followed by Woodbridge then rival University.

"Mira Costa is important for the seeding in the playoffs, and if we didn't beat Woodbridge then we're not going to the playoffs," Ricker said. "Uni, I knew we were going to have our hands full."

CdM won the two most important matches, but the Trojans also lived up to their part of the bargain at their courts on Thursday. They routed CdM, 14-4, in a showdown for first place in the Pacific Coast League.

University (8-0, 3-0 in league) appears headed to its fourth straight league title. The Sea Kings have another chance to spring an upset, as the rivals play again on Oct. 22 at CdM.

Doubles play has been a definite strength for the Sea Kings (8-2, 2-1) this season, but on Thursday the Trojans turned the tables. Their No. 1 team (senior Danielle Pham and sophomore Judy Kam) and No. 2 team (seniors Kyla Scott and Marissa Williams) both swept easily, with scores ranging from 6-0 to 6-2.

Ricker said the "I" formation the Trojans' doubles teams used gave CdM problems.

"They're just good tennis players," Ricker said. "I thought their [Nos.] 1 and 2 [doubles teams] were very good. Solid strategy, lots of talent … It kind of took us out of our rhythm, always having to play down the line. But I think their talent more took us out of our rhythm than their formation. Those are some good tennis players who would be singles players on every team in Orange County, except Uni.

"I didn't feel like that was our best day for our doubles teams, but I felt like they had a lot to do with that."

University also got singles sweeps from No. 2 player Celine Gruaz and No. 3 Yuki Asami. No. 1 player Alyssa Rudin won two of three sets. In the first round, she was defeated by CdM senior Lauren Thaxter, 6-2.

CdM's Taylor Fogarty and Erica Chen also won at No. 3 doubles in the first round, so CdM trailed the match just 4-2. But University won five of six sets in the second round to seize control.

University provided just a little bit too much pace for CdM, which does not have a player ranked in the top 100 in Southern California.

"Brian's done a good job with what he has and how he has them playing," University Coach John Kessler said. "If you look at the talent level, they have a lot of new girls, but look at what he has them doing. They're smart, and they're doing amazing things as far as staying back and coming in when they have to come in. I love what he's doing, and I can see why he's driving people nuts.

"I just think the problem they have, I think our top girls and Peninsula's girls hit too hard for them. I think the pace is too hard for them to be able to do what they probably do against everyone else, which is sneak in and poach like crazy."

CdM's doubles teams of Kenzie Purcifull and Kimmia Naaseh, as well as Siena Sharf and Jasie Dunk, each won against the Trojans' No. 3 doubles team.

Ricker said his team has no reason to hang its collective head. The Sea Kings can't really be disappointed, not with other talented teams like Northwood, ranked No. 10 in Division 1, lurking in league. CdM first matches up with the Timberwolves on Oct. 10 at home.

"They have two very good singles players," Ricker said. "That's going to be a battle. I've always felt like in the [Division 1] poll, No. 4-12 are pretty close. We've been taking care of business, especially on the doubles side, so hopefully we can continue that.

"If you look at the big picture right now, we don't have any girls ranked in the top 100. We're 8-2, and the only teams we've lost to are Peninsula and University, Nos. 1 and 2 [in CIF Southern Section Division 1]. We're No. 4 in Division 1 and No. 2 in Orange County [by the Register], so our girls are doing a great job. Today's not a great day, but that's a pretty good start."

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