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Sage's upset bid comes up short

Lightning play top-seeded St. Margaret's even, but lose on games, 69-60, in Southern Section final.

November 22, 2010|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza, david.carrillo@latimes.com
  • [Sage Hill's Devyn Billingsley lunges for a ball during a doubles match with her partner Lauren Hsu against St. Margaret's at the girls' CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs at The Claremont Club on Monday, Nov. 22. (Scott Smeltzer)] *** []
[Sage Hill's Devyn Billingsley lunges for a ball… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

CLAREMONT — Coach A.G. Longoria gathered his Sage Hill School girls' tennis team for one more photo-op. The backdrop was the tennis court where the team's season just ended Monday.

Longoria asked each player to smile at the camera. It was hard for most of them to crack a genuine one after coming oh so close to stunning rival St. Margaret's in the CIF Southern Section Division III final at The Claremont Club.

Fifth-seeded Sage Hill and fourth-seeded St. Margaret's were even through 18 sets. Games won decided the finale and the Tartans held a 69-60 edge, claiming their third straight section title.

St. Margaret's avoided the upset and kept its 72-match winning streak intact. Sage Hill put up a fight in the fourth meeting against its Academy League foe.

Beating a talented team like Sage Hill (17-5) that many times in a season is not easy.

The Lightning led for much of the finale, going up, 9-7, in sets late. Two sets remained and they were in singles action, an area in which the Tartans are the strongest.

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All the Lightning needed to do was split the sets and the section crown belonged to them for the first time in five years. They had a chance to avenge their 2008 loss to St. Margaret's in the Division IV section final.

The Lightning did not come close.

The Tartans finished off the Lightning, getting 6-1 victories from No. 2 singles player Zoe Odekerk and No. 3 singles player Molly Brooks. St. Margaret's capped a 22-0 season.

St. Margaret's was almost flawless in singles play, losing just one of nine sets. Sage Hill dominated doubles, winning eight of nine. The Tartans' margin of victory in singles outweighed the Lightning's in doubles.

When it came down to the final two sets, Coach David Boyle felt good about St. Margaret's chances.

"The fact that we did beat them three times in a row and the fact that we've been here [before] … I think that gave us the psychological advantage going into that last round," Boyle said. "We've been here. We know what it takes."

Longoria brought a relatively young team to the section final. The Lightning's previous trip was two years ago.

Two members of that team remembered it well. That final appearance was the first for Katie Bick and Rian Billingsley, both freshmen back then.

In their junior year, they saw Sage Hill fall short to the Tartans again. Bick and Billingsley performed well together at No. 1 doubles, earning 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 victories.

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