Taking their initial steps toward a potential rematch in the CIF Open Division Girls Tennis Championship, North Coast representatives No. 1-seeded Canyon Crest and third-seeded San Dieguito won quarterfinal matches Tuesday, Oct. 29, on their home courts to advance to the Wednesday Oct. 30 semi-finals.
Both matches were closer than expected. In a contest that was tighter than any of its post-season events last year, defending CIF champ Canyon Crest eliminated eighth-seeded Rancho Bernardo, 11-7, while 2019 runner-up San Dieguito pushed past stubborn No. 6 Del Norte, 10-8. Coach Chris Black’s CCA squad will now host No. 5 Bishop’s while SDA travels to No. 2 Westview.
Canyon Crest rode superior doubles play to its victory, claiming eight of the 10 doubles points. Senior Emily Fowler, who won the CIF individual doubles crown with Giulia Hayer as a junior, now has her sophomore sister, Lyna, at her side and the two dropped just four games while winning all three of their rounds. Asha Gidwani and Taylor Shimizu were also undefeated and freshman Elna Shalaev won the first set at No. 1 singles before giving way to Grace Wang who took the next two rotations.
“Rancho Bernardo is a good team and played very well but I always thought we had command,” said Black, who substituted liberally in the late going. “Tomorrow could be a different story, Bishop’s is legit. They took a few early season losses, but we only defeated them, 10-8, two weeks ago and their UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) is the second highest of all the teams in the tournament bracket.
“We’re going to have to play really well.”
The senior duo of Lauren Bear and Kennedy Urcelay, San Dieguito’s best doubles team, paved the way for the Mustangs, sweeping all three matches while the sister combo of (senior) Lesa and (sophomore) Leko Ritchie snagged another pair of points. In singles, Lauren’s sophomore sister, JoJo, and senior Lauren Rose each recorded two wins. Veteran Head Coach Joe Tomasi wasn’t stressing the relatively close nature of the match.
“I didn’t think we played well but, on the flip side, this is the Open Division and a win is a win,” said Tomasi. “We were up 4-2 after the first rotation and 8-4 after the second so I never felt like we’d lost control of things.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better tomorrow—if we do, I think we’ll beat them, if we don’t, I think we’ll get beat up.”
Both semi-finals start at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, and the championship final is slated for 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, at San Diego’s Balboa Tennis Club. Bishop’s earned its way into the semi-finals with a 14-4 thumping of Coronado while Westview rolled over La Jolla Country Day, 15-3.
Tomasi, for one, feels that getting past the nerves in the first one-and-done tournament situation can naturally lead to an improved effort in subsequent outings. When asked if he thought his side had any pre-match jitters, he was quick with his reply.
“I definitely think we did and it took a little while to settle down,” said Tomasi citing JoJo Bear as a prime example. “JoJo got down, 5-0, in her first match but she made some adjustments, locked in and got her confidence back.
“She ended up losing that match, 6-4, but rallied to make it 5-4 and then won her next two easily. I think the girls want to get back to the final so bad that sometimes can start trying too hard.
“I’ve told them that we’re not a team that can just expect to blow anybody out. We’ve got to grind and every game is important. We have to win the close ones.” Tomorrow should give them a chance.