(Joe McHale / Lariat Staff)
There was virtually no question that the Saddleback College women’s tennis team was the team to beat heading into the playoffs.
Santa Monica College came close to accomplishing that Wednesday (April 28) but fell short after a nail-biting 5-4 loss to the No. 1 seed Saddleback, in the Southern California Regional Finals.
Saddleback coach Jay Amos will look to not only give the Gauchos their first State title, but also mend their loss to Sierra College of Rocklin, Calif., who defeated them in 2007, casting a shadow on the only State Finals appearance in school history.
After their win over Santa Monica, the Gauchos get to take a crack at the surprise team, De Anza College, who upset the North’s top seed Sierra 5-4.
Avriel Tomaiko quickly earned some momentum for the Gauchos with a 6-0, 6-0 rout over Alix Thomas.
“It was good to win and get it done with,” Tomaiko said.
Following Tomaiko’s win, Erika Kagawa, Karley Pletcher, and Clara Kearney lost their matches one-by-one. For the first time this season, the Gauchos found themselves in position they weren’t used to.
Showing determination, Saddleback battled back from a 3-1 deficit. With wins from Carissa Fleming and Michelle Neville, Saddleback dug itself out of a hole.
“I am very pleased with our team’s performance,” Tomaiko said. “Everyone fought very hard for a common goal of winning so we could go to state.”
All tied up at three a piece, Saddleback and Santa Monica faced each other in three doubles matches to decide who would face De Anza.
Both schools split the first two doubles matches, leaving it up to the last doubles team to decide the teams’ fates.
After two losses of their own, Kagawa and Kearney together redeemed themselves and put their team in the State Finals with a two-set victory, 7-6, 6-2, over the Corsairs.
“We achieved what we wanted after going through a battle for the most part,” Tomaiko said. “I hope and believe that we will do well in State.”
Saddleback will face De Anza next Thursday (May 6) at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Matches are set to start at 2:00 p.m.
The Gauchos’ winning ways didn’t stop as they now stand 17-0. Only one team separates them from finishing perfect. Santa Monica finished its season 14-2, with both of its losses coming from Saddleback.