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Bound for first final

Boys' Tennis

Lineup moves work as Sage Hill wins at Cerritos to advance to first CIF final in program history.

May 24, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer…)

CERRITOS — With everything at stake, Sage Hill School boys' tennis coach A.G. Longoria tinkered with his lineup Tuesday.

The Lightning had won 14 straight matches, but Longoria knew Cerritos would be a tough opponent in the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinal match.

He put No. 1 singles player Robbe Simon at No. 3 singles for the match. He also moved No. 2 singles player Andrew Kurzweil into doubles with Ryan Lee.

Both moves worked for Sage Hill, which is now on the doorstep of history.

Simon swept and Sage won eight of nine doubles sets in an 11-7 victory at Cerritos High, as the Lightning advanced to a CIF final for the first time in the program's history.

No. 3-seeded Sage Hill (19-5) will play No. 4 Valencia of Placentia in the championship match June 1 at 11 a.m. at the Claremont Club. Valencia defeated St. Margaret's in the other semifinal match.

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In their first year in Division III, the Lightning feel like their time is now.

"We had the most intense three days of practice that we've ever had coming into this match," said Kurzweil, who swept in doubles with Lee. "We wanted it really badly. We've wanted it since [last May], when we lost to Rowland [in a CIF Division IV semifinal match that went to a super-tiebreaker]. Now we're one win away."

Longoria put Simon at No. 3 singles to try to grab a 4-2 lead after the first round, knowing No. 2-seeded Cerritos (21-3) has two tough singles players in seniors Pilki Min and Ganesh Alagappan. The plan worked, as Simon defeated Cerritos No. 3 Curtis Wu in the first round and Sage swept in doubles.

"We had to shake them up and put some doubt in them the first round," Longoria said. "The strategy worked. We knew Robbe would [win] against the No. 3, so why wait until the third round? Let him do it first."

Kevin Marshack and Alex Manolakas continued to be rock-solid at No. 1 doubles for Sage, easily winning their three sets. Simon's big 6-3 win over Min in the second round, the last match on the court, helped Sage Hill earn a 7-5 sets advantage.

Simon said he's been gaining confidence lately, especially after advancing to the third round of CIF Individuals on Friday and playing University sophomore Stefan Menichella tough before falling, 6-3, 6-4.

The Lightning clinched Tuesday's match when Kurzweil and Lee defeated Cerritos' No. 1 team of Terry Oh and Roy Yoon, 6-4, in the third round. Kurzweil picked up Lee in excitement. Sage Hill knows picking up a CIF championship plaque in a week would feel even better.

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