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La Cañada girls' tennis rolls to opening playoff win at Brentwood

LOS ANGELES — If La Cañada High No. 1 singles player Sophie McKenzie was on her game, she could provide a lift that could possibly help the Spartans girls’ tennis team win its CIF Southern Section Division II first-round playoff match.

But the reigning All-Area Singles Player of the Year faced a back-and-forth set early on, as McKenzie battled in a close contest.

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McKenzie trailed, 2-1 early, then won two straight to lead, 3-2, before stumbling to a 4-3 deficit. However, the senior was able to fight back and power her way through the final three games to win, 6-4.

Her victory in the opening set helped set the tone, as La Cañada went on to win, 14-4, on Wednesday against host Brentwood.

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“I didn’t realize you had to move her around until three or four games in,” said McKenzie, who added a pair of 6-0 wins to complete her sweep. “Since I wasn’t doing that, she was hitting winners off of me and I couldn’t really do anything about it except change what I was doing.”

“When I went down, 4-3, I found that medium between crazy and very angry. I finally relaxed a little bit and cleared my mind.”

La Cañada (10-4), the Rio Hondo League runner-up, will travel to take on No. 2 seed Redlands (13-0-1) in a second-round match at 2 p.m. Friday.

“Today was the first time we had our full lineup against another good team and that really added depth to our doubles,” La Cañada coach Will Moravec said. “It was huge — it was a great start. We [used] a different lineup this match than we normally do … we experimented today and it worked out.”

Redlands, the Citrus Belt League champion which received a bye in the first round, defeated Crescenta Valley in the Division III final last season.

“I know they’ve been good in the past,” Moravec said. “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we have the depth that’s needed to get another round.”

The Spartans comfortably strolled through the first round of play, defeating Gold Coast League No. 2 Brentwood (11-5) in all six sets.

“I thought we got the leadership where we needed to and the young ones had their talent and came through,” said Moravec, who paired his senior players with his freshmen contingent in doubles.

The No. 3 doubles pairing of La Cañada’s Artis Phillips and Sonia Bhaskaran closed out the first round with a 6-3 win.

In singles, No. 2 Maya Urata started the second round with a 6-0 win before the No. 1 doubles team Elianna Hanna and Ashley Chun completed their set with a 6-2 win. Hanna and Chun also won their other two sets, 6-2, 6-0.

“Eliana [Hanna] is an amazing player, but it was kind of stressful because I didn’t know if I could keep up with her,” Chun said. “But she was really supportive and hopefully I was really supportive of her, too. It was really tense in the beginning, but she helped me relax.”

Urata won her first match, 6-2, before giving way to Sydney Wong, who dropped her set, 6-0. Annabelle Kevakian, at No. 3 singles, also claimed two wins, 6-4, 6-1.

Solenn Matuska and Natalie Son, the Spartans No. 2 doubles team, won their second set, 6-1, to put La Cañada one win away from securing the victory. The two also won their other sets, 6-1, 6-2.

“[Chun] and I usually played on doubles together and this is the first year we were split up, and since, we’ve been playing with freshmen the entire year,” Matuska said. “It’s fun because they have the skill and all you have to do is keep them positive and keep them motivated because the hardest part for them is to push through the psychological aspect of it because they’re so young. ”

The Spartans led, 10-2, after the second round.

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