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CdM plays numbers game

August 23, 2010
  • Lynda Xepoleas will compete for the Corona del Mar High girls' tennis team this fall.
Lynda Xepoleas will compete for the Corona del Mar High… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

Brian Ricker doesn't like cutting girls from his teams. The Corona del Mar High girls' tennis coach hasn't done too much of it since becoming coach in 2004.

"I've heard, 'Oh, why don't you just cut all those seniors,' " Ricker said. "I don't like cutting girls at all. I coach to help kids get better at tennis. I hated the thought of sending kids away who had already put a lot of time into the sport."

The Sea Kings will be having tryouts starting Monday. This year, Ricker plans to be more selective.

He said he needs to cut down the total number of girls in the program. Last year, there were 63 players combined on the frosh/soph, junior varsity and varsity squads.

This year, Ricker wants it to be in the low 40s. His "experiment," as he calls it, with having huge teams appears to be over.

"I've come to the conclusion that it's just too many kids," he said, citing available court space as one of his concerns. "In the past, we've had 20 on frosh/soph, 20 on JV. Twenty is still too many. On the frosh/soph and JV levels, only 12 get to play."

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The Sea Kings have had success on the lower levels just as they have on varsity, where they've made the CIF final three of the last four years and won the 2006 Division I title. But Ricker said of 51 girls on his frosh/soph teams over the last four years, just one — Rebecca Beyer — ever made it into a competitive varsity match.

Ricker said a lot of girls have already switched to lacrosse or track, although as of Friday he still had 58 girls signed up to try out. His varsity team, which had 25 girls last year, will also be significantly cut down.

"This year [tryouts] will be fiercely competitive," he said.

Some girls have a more secure spot. Senior Kalika Slevcove is coming off a solid summer, with a couple wins over girls in the top 100 in Southern California in girls' 18s, Ricker said. Nini Ugrelidze, Alison Ishii and incoming freshman Lauren Thaxter are other top players.

Then, there is senior Lynda Xepoleas, who is ready to play her first and only high school season after moving from Ojai, where she trained at the Weil Academy.

The Purdue-bound Xepoleas, who made it to the singles final of the Southern California Junior Sectionals in June and the round of 32 at nationals earlier this month, is ranked No. 5 in Southern California and No. 7 in the country by the United States Tennis Assn. She is the highest-ranked player that Ricker, who also used to coach at Laguna Beach High, has ever coached.

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