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Longoria has his Sage Hill girls moving on

TENNIS: Lightning, led by their sixth-year coach, advance to CIF Southern Section Division IV semifinals with 11-7 win.

November 15, 2006|By Steve Virgen

NEWPORT BEACH — The words were simple, yet stern coming from A.G. Longoria, the Sage Hill School girls' tennis coach.

"Here we go," he said, not shouting but loud enough to be heard. "One point at a time."

He was talking to his No. 3 doubles team of Salen Andrews and Raya Tasker, who were involved in a thrilling set with Walnut at the Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club Tuesday.

Andrews and Tasker, who were playing in just their seventh set of the season together, trailed, 5-1, in a tiebreaker to 10, but started to rally. Andrews and Tasker, as most of the Sage Hill girls have so many times, listened to their coach and defeated Julianne Carluen and Courtney Wong, 7-6 (11-9).

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The victory was the most exciting, and perhaps the most inspiring, in the Lightning's 11-7 triumph over the Mustangs in a CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinal. Sage, the top seed, will face South Torrance, an 11-7 winner over Morro Bay Thursday, in a semifinal at a site to be determined by coin flip today.

As Andrews and Tasker shook hands with their opponents, Longoria smiled as he walked toward the court to congratulate his plucky senior duo.

In the playoffs, Tasker has been playing for Carissa Cummings, a team captain, who injured her shoulder during the Academy League semifinals. Cummings and Andrews, who won the Academy League doubles title last year, were 32-0 during the regular season.

"I knew there was no way I could replace [Cummings]," Tasker said. "But all I could do was try and play as hard as I could."

Tasker's effort, combined with Andrews' heady shots, led the Lightning doubles team's comeback from a 4-3 deficit. Andrews and Tasker saved six match points. The victory turned out to be the lone win for the tandem. They entered the match, having won six straight, as Sage Hill (22-1) posted two shutouts before facing Walnut (18-2).

That's the type of domination and success the Lightning have produced under their coach, who has been with the program since it started in 2001.

For three straight years, they have been ranked No. 1 in their division through the regular season. Last year, they won their first CIF title, in Division V. Sage Hill has also won three straight Academy League titles. It could be said, girls tennis is the pride of the school. Longoria's girls have the most postseason victories (16) of any sport at Sage Hill.

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