La Cañada girls’ tennis advances to CIF final with win at Long Beach Poly

LONG BEACH — With a chance to earn a place in program history, the La Cañada girls’ tennis team had to pay a visit to Long Beach Poly in the CIF Southern Section Division II semifinal match Wednesday.

In its first semifinal match since 2007, La Cañada won a key set in the second round and finished strong in the final round to defeat the host Jackrabbits, 11-7, to advance to the Division II final.

Sixth-seeded Long Beach Poly was just another hurdle for La Cañada (15-4), runner-up in the Rio Hondo League, to jump over in its journey to trying to earn its first CIF title since 1977.

The final will take place at 11 a.m. Friday at the Claremont Club. La Cañada will face Aliso Niguel (18-5).

La Cañada’s last title in 1977 was in Division III-A, and it defeated current-Rio Hondo League rival San Marino, 11-7.

Wednesday’s loss was the first for Poly (23-1), which won the Moore League championship.

“I felt we started out nervous,” Spartans coach Will Moravec said. “And we were only at 3-3 after that first round, but luckily we got our legs underneath us and the other team got a bit nervous, too.”

The La Cañada No. 2 doubles pair of Solenn Matuska and Natalie Son claimed a key second-round set, 6-4, to give the Spartans some breathing room and end the round with a 7-5 lead.

The Spartans got consistent efforts from No. 1 singles player Sophie McKenzie, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, No. 2 singles Maya Urata, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0, and No. 1 doubles Elianna Hanna and Ashley Chun, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4).

“We tried to just play calm and loosely,” Urata said. “We just tried to play our best and stay [well-behaved on the court].”

After struggling in her previous two rounds, No. 3 singles Annabelle Kevakian bounced back and claimed a 6-1 win in the final round to help ease the stress.

Twitter: @ReporterVince