Girls' Tennis: CdM's big season ends

CLAREMONT — A successful season is most often measured by wins and losses, but that doesn't explain why the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis team seemed so happy after losing to Torrey Pines on Friday afternoon in a CIF USTA Southern Regional Championship quarterfinal match.

The CdM players hung around The Claremont Club, laughing and making jokes and taking plenty of pictures. Coach Brian Ricker gave them 20 minutes after the match ended until they had to board the bus back toward Orange County, and they used every second of it.

Maybe this camaraderie explains how a team that featured just one tournament player, whose status often was day-to-day, was able to accomplish things like winning the California Girls' Tennis Classic tournament in Clovis, finishing a strong second in the Pacific Coast League and advancing to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

The Sea Kings' most successful season in years ended with a close regional quarterfinals loss to Torrey Pines, 4-3. But it was one that none of the players will soon forget.

"I think it says a lot about our team," senior Kenzie Purcifull said of CdM's accomplishments this year. "It's not just about a bunch of individual tournament players on one team. I think we all just worked really well together; it says a lot about our team dynamic."

As it has all year, No. 7-seeded CdM competed against No. 2 Torrey Pines, which recently won its 24th straight CIF San Diego Section title. In the format of four singles matches and three doubles matches, best two out of three sets, Torrey Pines did win the first two completed sets.

The Falcons' Alexa Meyer beat CdM's Riley Gerdau, 6-3, 6-0, at No. 2 singles. And Torrey Pines' Jasmine Rich got past CdM's Shelby Anderson, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 3 singles.

But CdM battled back in doubles. Purcifull and her partner Kimmia Naaseh got past C.C. Schwab and Michelle Hao, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 2 doubles. And CdM junior Taylor Fogarty and sophomore Erica Chen edged Nicole Beachboard and Sheyda Khonji, 7-5, 6-3, at No. 3 doubles.

After surging CdM sophomore Elena Fish beat Torrey Pines' Jessica Walker, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1, at No. 4 singles, the Sea Kings owned a 3-2 advantage. They needed to win just one more set to clinch the match.

It didn't happen. Senior Lauren Thaxter battled like she always does, but said she lost energy late and fell to Kelsey Chen, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 1 singles. Eyes turned to No. 1 doubles, where CdM's squad of sophomore Siena Sharf and freshman Jasie Dunk was late in the match against Torrey Pines' Tasia Morchernak and Agostina Waisfield.

The Falcons' duo won the first set, 7-5, and leaped out to a 5-2, two-break lead in the second set. Sharf and Dunk responded, winning three straight games to knot the score at 5-5.

But Dunk's serve was broken as her forehand clipped the tape and fell back on the CdM side at deuce (no-advantage scoring). Torrey Pines was then able to serve out the set and the match, but Ricker liked the fight from his team.

"I thought the girls played great," Ricker said. "One of the best qualities of this team is that they're willing to fight and grind, and still try to go on offense at the right time. Nobody gives up on this team, ever. I've never seen anybody give up on this team, and that's a great quality to have in our players.

"I thought everyone fought as hard as they could, and I thought everyone played pretty smart today. Torrey Pines was just a better team today, but only by a little bit. It could have gone either way … We're proud of our season."

The future also appears bright, although graduating senior starters Thaxter, Purcifull and Naaseh will be tough to replace. Thaxter and Purcifull are four-year starters.

Still, CdM expects to return three singles regulars and four doubles starters next year.

"We're really excited, since we have a lot of people coming back," Fogarty said. "It will be pretty much the same dynamic, and it worked for us this year, so we'll hope it works again next year."

Torrey Pines advanced to play CdM's rival, No. 3-seeded University, in the regional semifinals later Friday. University beat Canyon, 5-2, in another quarterfinal match.

The SoCal Regional championship match is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, also at The Claremont Club.

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