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Newport runner-up once more

Sailors fall to Santa Barbara, settle for CIF silver lining No. 7, but treasure their bond as teammates.

November 21, 2011|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High's Natalie Cernius reacts after defeating Santa Barbara's Mattea Kilstofte during a singles' set in a CIF Southern Section Division II championship at The Claremont Club Monday, November 21, 2011 in Claremont.] *** []
Newport Harbor High's Natalie Cernius reacts after… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

CLAREMONT — The Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team huddled for one last time Monday afternoon, on a tennis court in the far corner at The Claremont Club.

The Sailors had just lost in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship match, 16-2, to Santa Barbara. It was the furthest thing from Coach Kristen Case's mind.

She asked the players, assembled in a circle, to raise their hands if they had given 100% in the match. All 12 Sailors raised their hands.

"That's all you can do," Case told her team.

It just wasn't enough to win the title, as the Sailors were denied in the final for the second straight year. Last year, it was San Marino that topped Newport Harbor, 11-7.

Newport Harbor has never won a CIF team title in girls' tennis, falling to 0-7 all-time in the finals. A better record that Case could focus on was 41-5, the Sailors' overall mark the past two years, spearheaded by a strong senior class of Blake Bakkila, Christina and Robin Young, Mindy Wheeler, Holly Hovnanian and Cece Beck.

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"The team is greatly going to miss them," Case said. "Their leadership is top-notch. They're so committed to their team and their teammates, and I think, above all, they're great role models. If I had kids in high school and I knew that my son or daughter was being led by a group like that, I'd be so happy and feel so fortunate."

Bakkila, a four-year varsity player who played for two years at No. 1 singles, missed the whole playoffs with a sprained ankle. Yet, the team captain always stayed positive. She still was constantly on the move from court to court Monday, trying to rally her teammates, but top-seeded Santa Barbara (18-2) won the first four completed sets.

Newport Harbor sophomore Natalie Cernius then won her first singles set over Santa Barbara's Mattea Kilstofe, 6-3. But in the last match on court in the first round, Santa Barbara sophomores Lisa Santry and Karina Thornton outlasted Wheeler and Megan Bathen, 7-6 (7-4), at No. 2 doubles.

The No. 3-seeded Sailors (20-2) were down, 5-1, after the first round, just like last year against San Marino. It did not get easier against the Dons. Their doubles teams of Megan Grant and Madison Hale, Santry and Thornton, as well as Marianna Alevra and Taryn Mjelde, all swept.

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