McKenzies lead La Cañada High tennis past Rowland in CIF opener

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — For the past several days, Cassie McKenzie has been under the weather.

The La Cañada High girls' tennis player wasn't able to practice during that time while she recovered. Her condition improved significantly leading up to Wednesday's CIF Southern Section Division II first-round playoff match against Rowland.

McKenzie shook off her illness by sweeping her three sets, including rallying from a large deficit in the final round, to lead visiting La Cañada to a 10-8 victory.

La Cañada (13-6) advanced past the first round for the first time since it participated in Division III in 2008 and will next meet third-seeded Laguna Beach at 2 p.m. in a home match Friday.

McKenzie won her first two sets, 6-0, 6-1, to help the Spartans, who took second in the Rio Hondo League, build a seemingly comfortable 8-4 lead. However, Rowland, which finished 15-3 and won the Hacienda League championship, rallied to knot it at 8 with two sets remaining.

McKenzie recovered from a 3-0 hole to post a 6-3 win and give the Spartans a 9-8 advantage.

“I got myself in a hole and I needed to come back to help the team win,” she said. “I made some stupid mistakes in the first three games, but then I started to get into a groove.”

Sawa Keymeulan gave the Spartans their final win with a 7-6(8-6) victory with most of the tiebreaker being played in the waning moments of daylight.

Keymeulan said she wasn't aware the Spartans had already won the match on games while she was involved in the tiebreaker.

“I had no idea that we had already win,” Keymeulan said. “I wanted to make sure we ended it with a win in my set.

“It was equally hard for me and my opponent playing in the dark.”

The Spartans received a singles sweep from Ally McKenzie, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, also. Ally McKenzie entered Wednesday's contest fresh off winning the league's singles title and becoming the first Spartan to accomplish the feat since 2001.

The Spartans also got a 6-3 win from Keymeulan and a doubles win each from Emily Swanson and Serena Zheng (6-2) and Emily Matuska and Sharyse Watanabe (6-3) to turn back the Raiders.

La Cañada Coach Will Moravec said things appeared promising after the Spartans built an 8-4 lead entering the final round. That quickly changed after the Raiders knotted it at 8.

“We were losing the final five sets after going up, 8-5,” Moravec said. “I thought for a while that we then had one foot in the grave and it would be a long bus ride home had we lost.

“Cassie came through when the team needed her to.”

La Cañada last won a first-round match in 2008 against Hacienda Heights. That came after the Spartans advanced to the Division III semifinals in 2006 and 2007.

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