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CdM stunned as trip to final slips away

STAFF WRITER

The only emotion that matched the initial shock was the devastation that ensued when the realization sunk in that their ultimate goal for the season was no longer attainable.

Up by two sets and riding a wave of momentum going into the third round, top-seeded Corona del Mar dropped four of the final six sets, allowing Harvard-Westlake of Studio City to claim a wild 9-9 match on games, 77-73, Wednesday afternoon in a CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal at Corona del Mar High.

It was the second consecutive year the Wolverines (17-2) topped the Sea Kings on their home court to advance to the championship finale. Harvard-Westlake will face Campbell Hall of North Hollywood in the final on Friday at the Claremont Club.

With Corona del Mar (22-1), University and Orange all dropping semifinal matches on Wednesday, this will be the first time since 1986 an Orange County high school will not be represented in at least one CIF final.

“That’s probably the most heartbreaking high school match I’ve been apart of,” CdM coach Jamie Gresh revealed. “I commend the girls on how well they competed and their level of play, sportsmanship and integrity. They put it all out there on the line.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’m hurting just as much as they are. There’s a lot of tears and sad eyes, and rightfully so. They deserved to win and were four games away. The margin of winning and losing was paper thin today.”

After splitting the first round, CdM took a 6-5 lead in the second with Danielle Willson and Jenna Moustafa battling it out on the final court for over an hour. Willson pulled out a stellar 7-6 (3) tiebreaker over the Wolverines top singles play, and the Sea Kings grabbed what appeared to be a strong 7-5 lead.

The Madeline Dupee-Jennifer Gadalov doubles team and the Sophia Genender-Amanda Chan pair both grabbed decisive third-round results on the doubles side for Harvard-Westlake. Moustafa bounced back with a quick 6-0 win, and freshman Erica Ekstrand won four critical games in a 6-4 loss to an exhausted Willson.

With CdM leading 9-8, Harvard-Westlake substitute Lara Mikhail grabbed the decisive set of the match, besting Sina Schwenk-Mueller, 6-3, to even the team score that the Wolverines won by just four total games.

“I just wanted the girls to have fun,” Wolverines coach Kristie Gipe said. “We were the No. 4 seed coming in, so I said, ‘Listen, we had already proven our seed. Let’s just go out, have fun, and win this thing.’”

Also in Division 1:

Campbell Hall 14, University 4: The Trojans’ postseason run came to an end as they fell to the second-seeded Vikings (18-0) for the second time this season. University finished the year with a 15-5 record.

In Division 5:

Hemet 14, Orange 4: The Panthers were unable to advance to the championship round, falling to the Bulldogs on the road. Hemet has won 13 matches in a row and will play Rancho Mirage in the finale. Orange finished the season 15-7 overall.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@scng.com


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