Sage shows heart

Billingsley sisters play hours after finding out their aunt passed away, teammates step up to upset West Ranch.

November 18, 2010|By Steve Virgen,

NEWPORT BEACH — Shortly before playing a huge playoff match, Devyn and Rian Billingsley became distraught Thursday.

The Sage Hill School girls' tennis players wept when they found out their aunt, Shirley Billingsley, died earlier in the day. Their father, Michael, and Shirley's brother, said simple words to prepare them for an emotional day.

"You know what your aunt would say?" he said to his daughters. "You better do what you better do."

Somehow that quote inspired the two girls and their teammates also played with great passion. There were so many heroes for the Lightning. Their spirited play, and their unity, led No. 5-seeded Sage Hill to a 10-8 upset against top-seeded West Ranch of Valencia at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.


Junior Casey Astorino, the Lightning's No. 2 singles player, grabbed a dramatic 6-3 win to clinch the team victory in the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinal. If she would have lost, Sage Hill would've been eliminated on games, as West Ranch led, 69-63, going into Astorino's final set. Sage's No. 3 doubles team of senior Olivia Simon and junior Ava Soleimany came up big with a sweep, as did the No. 1 tandem of juniors Katie Bick and Rian Billingsley.

The Lightning advance to Monday's Division III final against No. 4-seeded St. Margaret's 10 a.m. at the Claremont Club. Sage Hill, which won its first and lone CIF title in Division V in 2005, will be playing in its fourth final, its first since 2008 when it lost to rival St. Margaret's.

Sage Hill has not beaten the Tartans (24-0) since 2007, Oct. 31, when it swept the season series to win the Academy League title.

But after their victory against West Ranch, the Lightning has great confidence that they can break the trend.

To earn that opportunity, so many players stepped up, and two of them played with heavy hearts.

"They both came off the court and cried," Michael Billingsley said of his daughters. "I told them she was here."

Devyn and Rian Billingsley last saw their aunt, who resided in Michigan, during Labor Day Weekend. They say they were close to their aunt. Shirley Billingsley was 56 when she died of complications from surgeries that included nerve repair and hip and knee replacements, Michael Billingsley said.

There was never a thought to sit out the match for the Billingsley sisters. Their aunt's passing inspired them.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles