Lasers cruise in tennis playoffs, set up district showdown with Gauchos

Zach Cavanagh

Any match-up of the fourth and fifth seeded teams in an eight-team playoff is going to be tight. Tuesday’s (April 13) women’s tennis match-up of No. 4 Irvine Valley College and No. 5 Santa Barbara City College in the Southern California Dual Team Playoffs was no different.

Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year Natalie Loria and Luba Sigaty battled for three-set singles wins and the pair of Tina Vuong and Katie Billings closed the door with a two-set doubles sweep for a 5-2 Lasers win over the visiting Vaqueros.

IVC improved to 10-3 overall on the season, and will play at No. 1 Saddleback College next Tuesday (April 20).

“The matches were all tight at first,” Lasers assistant coach Amber Vann.

Vuong and Sandi Richards posted two-set sweeps in their No. 2 and No. 6 singles matches, respectively, but Katie Billings and Erin Kang were swept to even the team score at 2-2. Billings forced a tiebreaker in the second game, but couldn’t complete the rally.

“The two teams were very evenly matched,” Vann said. “Two of the matches went the full three sets.”

Sigaty got into the first three set match of the day after she won her first set, but let the second set slip away to split the first two sets of her No. 3 singles match. Sigaty battled back and took the third set 6-4 for the match win.

To no one’s surprise, Loria, the first seed in Thursday’s OEC Tournament, had the second three-set match in the No.1 spot to close out the singles portion of the day.

“Natalie always starts slow and takes charge,” IVC coach Joan Meissenburg said. “That’s just the nature of her game.”

Loria’s patented slow start contributed to a 6-3 loss in the first set, but, true to form, she took control in the second and third sets.

“I made [SBCC’s Amy Sagraves] run a lot,” Loria said. “I tried to get her tired and drop [the ball] in front of her or lob it over her.”

As Loria’s game started to take hold, Sagraves’ composure began to break down. After almost every point lost, Sagraves would say something to herself or get visibly upset at her game.

“I see that and I’m like ‘yeah,'” Loria said. “It gives you motivation to finish off the match.”

After a small rally by Sagraves, Loria did finish the match off for a 6-3 win third set win for a 4-2 team lead going into the doubles portion of the match.

Sagraves got some redemption by taking the first set, 6-2, with her partner, Meghan Schaefer, against the team of Loria and Sigaty. The victory was small for the Vaqueros, as Vuong continued her easy sailing as she and her partner, Billings, earned a two-set sweep, 6-1 and 6-2, to clinch the match with a team score of 5-2.

The Lasers victory earns them a third match with the undefeated OEC champion and No.1 team in Southern California, Saddleback, next Tuesday at 2 p.m. IVC lost its first two matches against the Gauchos in convincing fashion at 8-1 and 7-2. The Lasers know the challenge that lies ahead.

“It’s going to be tough,” Vann said. “We’re going to have to play our “A plus” game.”

While Loria looks to defend her No. 1 seed against some of the Gauchos in Thursday’s OEC Tournament, she is not too concerned with what troubles Saddleback presents individually.

“I defeated their No. 1 singles player in the last match against them [on March 23],” Loria said. “I’m not worried about the singles. It’s the doubles I have to worry about.”

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