Opposites attack for San Marino girls’ tennis

Larissa Phillips and Madeline Gandawidjaja of San Marino High School.
(Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

On the surface, the members of the San Marino High girls’ tennis No. 1 doubles team wouldn’t appear to have much in common with one another.

Larissa Phillips is a senior, while Madeline Gandawidjaja made her high school debut this year. An all-around athlete, Phillips plays other sports such as softball and basketball once the high school tennis season is over. Gandawidjaja is a year-round tennis player who logged years of experience in United States Tennis Assn. tournaments before she even began high school.

And, on the court, Gandawidjaja is a hard-stroking power hitter who likes to bomb from the baseline, while Phillips favors the finesse game at the net.

But, while Phillips and Gandawidjaja’s styles of play may seem like fire and ice, the Titans duo proved to be perfect counterparts.

“Opposites attract for doubles,” Titans Coach Melwin Pereira says. “You could say that.”

It was a dynamic recognized quickly by Pereira when he took over the team this season and saw in Gandawidjaja an even better fit for Phillips’ doubles partner than the Phillips-Vivian Le tandem that won a Rio Hondo League title and advanced to the round of 16 in the CIF Individuals Tournament the season prior. Le, a junior, was moved to singles, in part to bolster that contingent, and the Phillips-Gandawidjaja era was officially underway.

It would go down as one of the most fruitful in San Marino’s bountiful history, as the duo became a juggernaut in the doubles bracket in leading San Marino to a Rio Hondo League title, its third CIF Southern Section Division II title in the last four years and an appearance in the second round of the CIF Regional tournament. In the process, Phillips and Gandawidjaja went 34-2, captured a league doubles title and advanced all the way to the round of 16 of the CIF Individuals Tournament.

All of the above made Phillips and Gandawidjaja a clear choice for the 2012 All-Area Girls’ Doubles Team of the Year by the editors and sportswriters of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.

“I feel like we definitely accomplished a lot this season, first, with winning CIF as a team, that was a great end to my senior year,” said Phillips, who won the award last year with Le. “Then going on after that and playing with Madeline in the individuals and getting pretty far, that was also another great end to my senior year. I’m so glad I got to play with Madeline.”

Gandawidjaja, along with fellow freshman arrival Devon Jack who excelled in the No. 3 singles slot, is now the future face of the team as her partner Phillips and San Marino’s top singles player Dorothy Tang both graduate this year.

“In the beginning of the year I was really excited because I knew we had a good chance this year,” Gandawidjaja said. “As the year went on, I felt good about our team and I knew we were working hard. But in the end, we worked hard for what we got and I was so proud of our team, and Larrissa. I was really happy that I could play with her and go that far.”

After pulling out the league doubles title in an all-Titans final round, Phillips and Gandawidjaja were lights out in the CIF Divisional playoffs. The pair notched eight set wins over the first three rounds to set up a semifinal showdown with Claremont, where the duo swept, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0, on Nov. 7 at home in an 11-7 victory.

“I think it was the Claremont match in CIF,” Gandawidjaja said of the season’s highlight for her. “That was the one that really mattered and that was when the whole team was just really connected. It was the point where we all got together and we were cheering for every match. We just supported each other.”

In the CIF title match against Arcadia at The Claremont Club on Nov. 9, doubles proved to be the key to bringing home the crown. The Apaches changed up their doubles order to get a strategic edge, but the move backfired when San Marino took seven of nine doubles sets, paced by three wins from Phillips and Gandawidjaja.

“In the season it was easy for them, they kind of had no competition,” Pereira said. “Then when we went to the playoffs, it was pretty much easy, too. They were holding their ground pretty much easily.

“If they were on their game there was virtually no one in league and no one in playoffs that would actually touch them.”

Galvanized by their CIF team run, Phillips and Gandawidjaja went full force into the CIF Individual Tournament, where they powered through to the round of 32 on the opening day at the Claremont Club on Nov. 19 with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Audrey Johnson and Joanna O’Neil of Ridgecrest Burroughs in the second round and a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Claremont’s Sharon Stannislaus and Sophie Elkara in the third round after enjoying a first-round bye.

Things heated up in Nov. 27 at Whittier Narrows, where Phillips and Gandawidjaja cleared the round of 32, but not before weathering some adversity in a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win against La Quinta La Quinta’s Haley Diefenbah and Ellery Bohrman. With Gandawidjaja struggling to put away her forehand at times in the match, the pair worked together to pull through after a second-game loss and finish the match off strong with a quick third game.

“I think she’s really supportive,” Gandawidjaja said of Phillips. “She doesn’t get mad if anything goes wrong and she knows what to do if something doesn’t work. She has good ideas of what to change up in a match.

“During the season a lot of times, in some matches, one of us wouldn’t be playing well, but we really picked each other up well. In the end, I think her volleys were a really good strength and my ground strokes helped her have those volley shots.”

Phillips said that there were times when Gandawidjaja picked her up as well, and that being able to depend on each other when things got tough was a big key to the team’s success.

“Chemistry-wise we just got along really well,” Phillips said, “and we were good friends, so that also helps.

“She and I never get down on each other, we’re always really positive with each other. Even if I do make mistakes she’ll help me and she’ll get me to play better.”