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Sailors reach final

Girls' Tennis

Newport Harbor uses teamwork to top San Marino, booking a repeat visit to The Claremont Club on Monday.

November 17, 2011|By Matt Szabo

SAN MARINO — A team is more than just a collection of individuals.

The Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team has spent the whole season proving it.

On this team, senior captain Blake Bakkila picked up the team's other singles players on Halloween night and took them to dinner and a movie for a "singles night out."

On this team, one of those other two singles players, sophomore Natalie Cernius, gave up her spot in the CIF Individuals tournament to the other, freshman Annie Radeva, because she knows Radeva wants to play in college like her older sister Nelly.

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On this team, senior Cece Beck and junior Kelsey Christiansen cheer their hearts out for their teammates no matter what. Christiansen had another responsibility Thursday, bringing three large bags of "pretzel M&Ms" for good luck.

The Sailors have eaten them in their last three CIF matches. Even sweeter was the team's 11-7 victory at San Marino on Thursday in a CIF Southern Section Division II semifinal match, getting revenge for last year.

Now this team is a win away from capturing the first CIF title in program history.

No. 3-seeded Newport Harbor (20-1) advanced to the title match for the second straight year, and seventh overall. The Sailors will play top-seeded Santa Barbara at 10:30 a.m. Monday at The Claremont Club.

Santa Barbara beat El Dorado, 15-3, on Thursday in another semifinal match.

"Every member of this team has embraced their role incredibly," Sailors Coach Kristen Case said. "Everybody has made a heroic effort in this run in the playoffs, in their own way. It just makes me feel like the luckiest coach. They all individually are incredible, and when you bring that together, it just makes for one of the most special and powerful teams I've ever coached."

The Sailors needed a special effort against San Marino (18-2). The Titans defeated the Sailors by the same score 11-7, in last year's final. The year before that, San Marino won CIF in Division III.

Thursday's match lasted four-and-a-half hours, partially because San Marino has just five courts. Darkness had set in by the time the Sailors clinched it with two doubles sets still on-court, garnering enough games to advance. But they also finished strong, as senior twins Christina and Robin Young, as well as the team of senior Holly Hovnanian and junior Kaitlyn Cosenza, each won those last sets by 6-3 and 7-5 scores.

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