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Girls' Tennis: Tars gain ground, but fall

Newport Harbor's run of consecutive Sunset League titles ends at four, but not before it delivers a scare to Los Alamitos, which wins on games.

October 15, 2012|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High's Baylee Bakkila returns a shot during a match against Los Alamitos at Newport Harbor High School on Monday.
Newport Harbor High's Baylee Bakkila returns a… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team did not leave the courts Monday afternoon with its fifth straight Sunset League title.

After pushing Los Alamitos to the brink in the league finale, the Sailors walked off with something they saw as more valuable — perspective.

The Griffins took the league crown after outlasting the Sailors 82-72 on games, after the two teams each won nine sets at Newport Harbor High. But, considering Los Al defeated Newport Harbor 15-3 in the teams' first league meeting Sept. 27 at El Dorado Tennis Center, the second-place Sailors' improvement was impressive.

The Newport Harbor players were not downtrodden after nearly toppling the No. 9-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1. They were upbeat, excited even.

"I think it just shows how much our team wanted it, and how much time and effort and practice we put into everything," Newport Harbor senior Kaitlyn Cosenza said. "I mean, second is great. I feel like the outcome doesn't matter to us. The journey is more important to us."

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The match was tied, 8-8, with two doubles sets still on court. But Los Alamitos' Melissa Gahungu and Megan Coats outlasted Sailors freshmen Kendall Cosenza and Anna Burke, 7-6 (7-5), essentially clinching the match with the Griffins up on games.

In the last set to finish, Kaitlyn Cosenza and partner Megan Bathen rallied from a 4-0 deficit and saved four set points in a tiebreaker to top Sarah Edwards and Sydney Bott, 7-6 (10-8).

"It shows our improvement, especially in the score," Bathen said. "We felt like we had nothing to lose. We just came out here and left everything on the court ... We didn't quite know what our team was capable of, and today was definitely a turning point of seeing that trust and our teamwork come together. That just gives us so much momentum. It builds our reputation and builds our threat factor, to other teams."

Newport Harbor (14-5, 8-2 in league) continually showed the tenacity that has become a trademark of Coach Kristen Case's squads. The Sailors were down, 4-2, to Los Alamitos after the first round before catching a bit of a break. The Griffins' No. 2 singles player, Aliya Alenikov, had to leave the match with an elbow injury.

Los Alamitos still led the match, 7-5, after two rounds. But Case saw the fight in her team, which has just two returning starters from last year. Los Alamitos (11-3, 10-0) has seven returning starters.

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