(Joe McHale / Lariat Staff)
Just minutes before the rain started to fall on the Saddleback College tennis courts, Erika Kagawa defeated Irvine Valley College’s Natalie Loria to win the Southern California Regional semifinals Tuesday (April 20).
Kagawa’s 6-4, 6-2 win in No. 1 singles was the fifth of the day, leading to a second playoff sweep in a row for the Gauchos, this time over the conference rival Lasers.
“I feel good,” Kagawa said. “We have a strong team and today we didn’t lose any [matches].”
Karley Pletcher started off the attack for Saddleback, defeating Luba Sigaty 6-1, 6-1. Avriel Tomaiko shortly followed after Pletcher, rebounding from her first loss of the year last Thursday at the Orange Empire Conference tournament by beating Katie Billings 6-2, 6-1.
“It feels really good to get back to normal,” Tomaiko said. “Their goal was to beat us, and we stopped them from reaching that goal.”
Michelle Neville also won her match 6-2, 6-1. Carrisa Fleming quickly took care of Sandi Richards with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
Because Saddleback needed only five out of the possible nine points needed to advance the Southern California Regional finals next Wednesday, Clara Kearney and Tina Vuong did not finish their No. 2 singles match and there were no doubles matches needed.
The success of Saddleback comes from the evenly strong players. From No. 1 to No. 6, the girls are all arguably equally as dominant.
“All throughout the ladder it’s very strong,” Tomaiko said. ‘Anyone can play any number of any team and has a chance of winning.”
IVC finished their impressive crack at the State Finals as a team with a record of 11-4. They will continue to play in singles this week at the Ojai Tournament.
“I feel proud of what my girls have accomplished this year,” IVC coach Joan Meissenburg said. “Just even doing this well in conference against, really, all the top teams has been very good.”
With a record of 16-0, the Gauchos continue to display perfection as they eye the California State Team Finals. Only the winner of the Orange Coast College and Santa Monica College Regional semifinal stands in their way of the opportunity to contend for the championship.
“Every win is a good win,” Saddleback coach Jay Amos said. “It’s about us playing our game, we got to come and play how we play.”
For Saddleback to succeed in reaching the State Final, they will need to stick to how they got this far, a team effort. Possibly the Gauchos biggest strength is the unity they posses as a team.
“I’m very proud of the ways they pulled together,” Amos said. “These girls really enjoy each other, it makes my job a lot easier.”