Longoria leads Lightning

Sage Hill sage, the program's coach since its inception 10 seasons ago, is looking for his second CIF crown.

May 31, 2011|By Matt Szabo,
  • Sage Hill School Coach A.G. Longoria, leads the boys' tennis team before the third match against Cerritos during the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals at Cerritos High School on Tuesday, May 24.
Sage Hill School Coach A.G. Longoria, leads the boys'… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

A.G. Longoria's curiosity was piqued on his morning commute more than a decade ago.

Driving on the 73 toll road to his job as professional tennis coach at Mission Viejo Country Club, Longoria couldn't help but notice the mounds of dirt off to the side in Newport Coast. Then he received a phone call from Ken Stuart, who owns the Palisades Tennis Club and was on the athletic committee for this new campus.

"I read this article in the Daily Pilot about this incredible school they were going to build," Longoria said. "I didn't even know the name of it. But [Stuart] calls me one night right after I'd finished teaching and he says, 'Do you know anybody who would be interested in being the tennis coach at this private school?' "

Longoria asked the name of the school and was told it was Sage Hill School, on Newport Coast Drive. He instantly made the connection to the construction site he passed every day, and he had just the person in mind for the position.


"I said, 'I'm interested in that job,' " Longoria said.

He's been the coach since the school opened, and the Lightning boys' and girls' tennis programs have been the most successful at the school since they began varsity competition in 2001-02. They've combined to win six Academy League titles and make four CIF finals. The CIF Southern Section Division V title the girls won in 2005 is one of just two CIF team championships in school history, the other being girls' volleyball, also in 2005.

That could change Wednesday, when Longoria's boys' team takes on Valencia of Placentia in the Division III title match at The Claremont Club. It's an experienced Lightning bunch, with six seniors and a junior at No. 1 singles – Robbe Simon – who Longoria calls the best boys' player to ever play at Sage.

Longoria, 65, is a figure of encouragement for his teams. The two-time California High School Tennis Coach of the Year, as named by the United States Professional Tennis Assn., also is considered a master at maximizing his talent and constructing the perfect lineup. During Julia Blakeley's time at Sage, that usually meant she was at No. 1 singles. Blakeley just finished her freshman year at George Washington University. She is the first Lightning tennis player to compete in a Division I collegiate program.

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