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Sage season of firsts continues

TENNIS: Lightning defeat rival St. Margaret’s for first time in program history, keep league title hopes alive.

April 09, 2008|By Matt Szabo

SAN CLEMENTE — Every time the Sage Hill School boys’ tennis team turns around, it seems like the Lightning are accomplishing another first.

Two weeks ago, Sage Hill became the first boys’ team in school history to be ranked No. 1 in CIF pool, when the Lightning were tops in the CIF Southern Section Division IV coaches’ poll.

On Tuesday, there was another, perhaps more satisfying first.

The Sage Hill boys beat rival St. Margaret’s for the first time in program history, 10-8 in an Academy League match at the Rancho San Clemente Tennis and Fitness Club. For some of the Lightning players, it was a long time coming.

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“It’s not as much, ‘Oh, it’s amazing we beat them,’ ” said junior Kevin Wang, who won twice at No. 1 singles Tuesday. “It’s more like, ‘Finally.’ ”

The Lightning (9-9, 3-1 in league), now ranked No. 2 in Division IV, hadn’t forgotten about their match against the No. 10 Tartans (5-7, 2-2) from two years ago.

It was then that Sage Hill tied in both sets and games, but ultimately lost the match on a super-tiebreaker that would decide that year’s league title.

“We were one point away,” said junior Troy Astorino, who was then a freshman. “We were one point away from not only beating St. Margaret’s, but from winning league.”

St. Margaret’s had a strategy Tuesday, which involved stacking its doubles lineup. The Tartans moved Michael Schnieder, normally a singles player, to doubles, and Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said he thought about stacking his team’s doubles as well. He ultimately decided against it.

“I kind of guessed right,” Longoria said. “When you have close teams, the lineup is crucial. They gave us six easy matches in singles. If it would’ve gone to 9-9, we would have won easily in games.”

Longoria left Wang, Astorino and senior Karam Sethi in singles. All three lost to St. Margaret’s No. 1 Krishna Kaliannan, but they both easily won their other two sets. It helped give Sage Hill an insurmountable games margin should the final score have been 9-9, but the Lightning No. 2 doubles team of senior Grant Gerdau and sophomore Alex Koeberle made sure nobody would have to bring out a calculator.

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