Szabo: Sharf, Dunk on rise for CdM

One night last week, I got a notification on my phone that I didn't really expect.

It was Corona del Mar High sophomore Siena Sharf. She good-naturedly mentioned me on Twitter, asking me if I had given up on CdM tennis.

Admittedly, it had been a couple of weeks since I had covered the Sea Kings, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 1. I wanted to make it to last weekend's big nonleague 10-8 win over then-No. 7 Santa Barbara, but I had to cover the Orange County Championships cross country meet instead.

When I finally saw CdM play rival University at home on Tuesday, I understood why Sharf might have wanted me to check on the team. Sure, the Sea Kings lost to the Trojans 14-4 for the second straight time in the Pacific Coast League, but the match was much more competitive and the sets were closer. It was an impressive showing from the Sea Kings (15-3).

None were more impressive than Sharf and her doubles partner, freshman Jasie Dunk. They won just one set against University, but were a few points away from sweeping. In their first set, the Sea Kings' No. 2 doubles team handed University's team of Kyla Scott and Marissa Williams its first loss in league, 6-3.

In Sharf and Dunk's second match, they narrowly lost a close one against University's top team of Danielle Pham and Judy Kam, 7-6 (7-4).

"I just think we played really well," said Sharf, who played doubles last year with graduate Sophia Chen. "I never would have expected us to play that well. I don't think they were expecting it, and I wasn't expecting it either."

She should start expecting it. Three days earlier, in the match at Santa Barbara, Sharf and Dunk won the deciding doubles set at the end. If it would have gone to games, the host Dons would have won the match.

Sharf and Dunk are 37-7 this year for CdM as a doubles team, very impressive considering the Sea Kings have played nearly all of the top Division 1 teams. As just a sophomore and freshman, a lot of the future of CdM girls' tennis appears to be in their hands. They will be a team to watch next week at the league tournament.

"I paired them together because of their potential," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. "They're both tall, they're both mobile and they both have hard serves. The thing they have to fight is not making too many errors, and I want them to get more aggressive at the net."

It might be just chance that they're doubles partners now, or maybe it's fate. Dunk's father, Chris, and Sharf's mother, Tracey, both played high school tennis at Foothill a few years apart. Chris went on to play at Cal and on the pro tour, where he reached No. 35 in the world in doubles. Tracey was a walk-on at Arizona.

"Our parents have been really close," Siena Sharf said. "We used to play practice matches a lot, when we were in elementary school and middle school. We didn't really talk. My mom was initially friends with Mr. Dunk's younger brothers. And then, through the tennis, we've become much closer with [Jasie's] family."

Both focused on other sports growing up, volleyball for Siena and soccer for Jasie. They both said they went through a period where they hated tennis, but they got through that.

"When I was 12, I really started playing again, a couple of years ago," Jasie Dunk said. "I wanted to be on the tennis team [at CdM]."

Dunk has hit with her father at Big Canyon, where they are members, as well as with Robert Van't Hof at Palisades Tennis Club. In her pairing with Sharf, she typically plays the ground strokes, and Sharf is aggressive at the net. However, they are both trying to become more well-rounded.

Both Sharf and Dunk are also fiercely competitive. They hate to lose, and I saw that after the tiebreaker loss to Pham and Kam. Jasie Dunk walked off the court to her father.

"Great playing," Chris Dunk told his daughter, who reluctantly gave him a high-five. At times, Jasie said can be difficult for Chris to watch her play.

"He tries to stay away," Jasie Dunk said with a laugh. "It's hard for him to contain himself. He would be my coach if I wanted him to be or not. He always tells me what to do, and what shots I should hit more, strategies for myself. We didn't even talk on the ride home [Tuesday, after the loss to University]. I didn't say one word to him."

But lately, the play of Sharf and Dunk is speaking for itself.

"Last time, when we played [University], I don't even remember getting into a rally with them," Dunk said. "We did so bad our first time against them, and then we did pretty well [Tuesday] ... It's fun."

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