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Eagles bow out

Estancia has chances, but close sets go to Louisville in CIF Division I playoff opener Thursday.

November 12, 2010|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Erin O'Neil and Christy Brown played together at No. 1 doubles this year for the Estancia High girls' tennis team.

They are quite familiar. O'Neil played doubles with Brown's older sister, Misha, last year, and both student-athletes also play soccer.

But the two-sport thing can be part of the problem when CIF rolls around. Despite a sweep from O'Neil and Brown, Estancia lost to visiting Louisville High of Woodland Hills, 11-7, in a Division I first-round match on a windy Wednesday afternoon.

"The school is at a disadvantage [in CIF]," Christy Brown said. "We're not a school where you focus on one sport. We both play tennis, and we both play soccer. It's a different mindset."

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Coach Rachel de los Santos has argued for years that the Eagles (10-9) shouldn't be in Division I for girls' tennis. The reason the Orange Coast League is in Division I is mainly because of Laguna Beach, which won the Division I title in 2005, but even the Breakers aren't a superpower school anymore.

Although Estancia has made the playoffs every year since moving to Division I in 2006, the Eagles have won just one playoff match in that time. It's tough to compete with those elite schools when you don't have any regular tournament players; gone are the days when the Eagles were a contender in Division V.

"We actually got a good draw this year," de los Santos said after her team competed against Louisville. "[CIF] just doesn't mean as much as it would if we were in another division. Laguna Beach doesn't really belong there either anymore ... I don't think the girls take [CIF] as seriously as they would. I don't think a loss is as devastating to them."

Estancia had a good year, despite Wednesday's first-round loss. The Eagles, who start eight seniors, finished tied for second in league before beating rival Costa Mesa to take the OCL's No. 2 entry for CIF. Seniors Laurel Hinson, Claire Woodside and Stephanie Plascencia each won a set each against Louisville (10-4).

Hinson finished a stellar four-year varsity career by beating Louisville's Krista Sweet, 6-1, in the last set on the court.

The No. 2 doubles team of seniors Helena Secrest and Haylie Stephenson also won a set. But two other doubles sets were lost, 7-5 and 7-6, and Woodside was edged 7-5 by Louisville's Krista Sweet in the first go-round.

The visitors, who led 5-1 after the first round, won nearly all the close sets. It was clear the Eagles weren't devastated. O'Neil and Brown smiled after winning their last set, taking pictures on court with de los Santos.

Until they land in another CIF division, the Eagles will continue to claw as best they can.

"It's sad, the closing of a chapter," O'Neil said. "It's kind of bittersweet, because we could have had this match, instead of just being totally annihilated. But it was good to make a run at it. It was a good end to the season, definitely."

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