On-court couples uniting

TENNIS: Some newfound chemistry in doubles helps Sage Hill top Edles-led Estancia in nonleague date Thursday.

October 02, 2008|By Barry Faulkner

NEWPORT BEACH — While the prospect of finding the perfect partner has created a lucrative business for Internet dating services, high school tennis coaches are annually forced to do a little matchmaking of their own when it comes to setting their doubles lineup.

Veteran Sage Hill School girls’ coach A.G. Longoria said Thursday’s 11-7 nonleague victory over Estancia at the Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club may have provided a few answers in terms of the Lightning’s on-court coupling.

“This is the best doubles we’ve played all year,” said Longoria, whose tennis twosomes won eight of nine sets to help overcome the absence of top singles players Julia Blakeley (flu) and Jacklyn Smrcek (recruiting trip).


“I was a little bit nervous not having [Blakeley and Smrcek], but, at the same time, we needed to see what we could do with our doubles.”

Longoria said he typically uses preleague matches to sample different pairings, then surveys his players as to which teammates with whom they feel most comfortable competing. With Academy League play opening today — Whitney visits the Lightning (8-1), ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division IV, at 3 p.m. — Longoria believes the time has come to start creating lasting relationships.

“Today’s match will go a long way to setting the doubles lineup,” Longoria said. “I think we’ve found something. I think we’ll be all right in doubles if we can keep up this kind of consistency.”

Sophomore Devyn Billingsley and junior Dominque Moore, playing together for only the second time this season, swept, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0, to pace Sage’s doubles contingents.

The No. 1 Lightning pairing of senior Isa-Maria Taskinen and freshman Rian Billingsley, Devyn’s sister, also swept, winning 18 of 23 games.

And the senior duo of Allyson Smart and Sarah Choi won twice, then rallied from an 0-3 deficit, before falling, 7-5, to Estancia’s No. 1 pairing of Alex Payzant and Erin Rodman.

“[Devyn Billingsley and Moore] really played well,” Longoria said. “They came through [Wednesday, in their debut together], winning two sets against Calvary Chapel. Devyn is one of our five players ranked [in junior tennis], and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with Dominique’s play. She has always been a very powerful player, but she’s starting to be more consistent with her returns.”

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