Girls' Tennis: Sailors top Chargers

It is difficult to show more team spirit than the Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team.

"Our team has always been very spirited," Coach Kristen Case said. "I mean, even when I played here, we were ridiculously spirited. I guess you would say it's one of our trademarks."

Visiting Edison tried to match the Sailors on Tuesday afternoon. Players from both squads were constantly yelling out to teammates in support.

On the court, however, Newport Harbor was just a little bit better in the key Sunset League match.

Senior co-captain Kate Knight swept at No. 1 singles, a highlight in the Sailors' 11-7 victory at home.

The Sailors (9-7) and Chargers are now tied for second place at 3-1 in league. However, Edison has yet to play first-place Los Alamitos, so the Chargers could drop to third place on Thursday.

Sophomores Kendall Cosenza and Anna Burke swept at No. 1 doubles in Tuesday's match, winning 18 of 19 games. Senior co-captain Reagan Rutter and junior Annie LaGrandeur also swept at No. 2 doubles.

"The big thing with Edison was that we knew they were definitely a strong team," Burke said. "They had a lot of spirit. It was just [about] staying collected, not getting too ahead of ourselves if we were up. We were just trying to keep moving forward, keep progressing, keep getting better with every point."

Edison led 3-2 late in the first round, before Knight came through with a 7-5 victory at No. 1 singles over Edison sophomore Libby Jubas. The Sailors kept the momentum in the second round, taking a 7-5 sets lead as Knight again prevailed, 7-5, over Edison No. 3 Emily Read.

Knight was yet again the last player on court in the third round, and she won 6-3 to earn the sweep. But, by then, the match already had been decided.

"Edison always comes out strong, they're always going to try to match our spirit," Knight said. "I have a lot of respect for their team. They're a really strong team. They always fight as hard as they can. It definitely wasn't a walkover, and it's going to be tough playing them again in league. They're ready to go every time they come out, so today we had to bring it.

"For me it's just all about bringing in the point for the team. My matches are no more important than anybody else's, so if I can bring in a point for the team, that's my ultimate goal."

Case liked the fact that everyone contributed. Sophomore Jenn Kingsley earned a key 6-4 win in the second round, and sophomore Peyton Espley-Jones was a 6-1 victor in the third round to help put the match away.

The No. 3 doubles team of sophomores Livy Zehnder and Elle Zielinski lost each of their three sets 6-2, but battled. The two games in each set would be important if the match went to games.

"That's huge for them to realize," Case said. "Although one day I may get the sweep, and another day I may get two [sets], and another day I may get one, everybody's always contributing no matter what. Whether it be how many games you can put on the board, whether it be how much you can be behind the fence cheering your teammates on. It is 100% a combined team effort, and everybody always has a role. That's what this team does so well — they always fulfill their role."

Newport Harbor now has a leg up on the race for second place in league. But the Sailors still haven't forgotten about the race for first place. After playing Fountain Valley on Thursday, the Sailors play host to defending champion Los Alamitos on Oct. 15 to open the second round of league.

Los Al (4-0 in league) topped Newport Harbor, 14-4, on Sept. 26. But six of the sets the Sailors lost were by scores of 6-4 or closer. And they can take solace in knowing what happened last year.

In 2012, the Griffins routed the Sailors, 15-3, in their first league meeting. But, in the second league meeting at the Sailors' courts, Los Al narrowly earned a 9-9 (82-72 on games) verdict to win the outright league title.

Before last year, it was Newport Harbor that had won four league titles in a row.

"I think the biggest thing is starting off strong and ending strong," Burke said of facing Los Alamitos again.

Her doubles partner, Cosenza, agreed.

"In our practices, we've really been focusing on what we can do to improve," Cosenza said. "Most of our practices are based off what we can improve to beat Los Al — more angles and volleys and aggressiveness. I think that the momentum is in our favor, and we'll just keep going forward.

"Los Al better watch out."

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