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Motivated Aliso Niguel pushes way into semifinals
ALISO NIGUEL - After finishing the regular season behind undefeated Sea View League champion Capistrano Valley and second-place Laguna Hills, Aliso Niguel's girls tennis team was forced last week to play in the wild-card round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs.
Then a funny thing happened - the Wolverines won, and won, and won again.
Consecutive victories over Paso Robles, then Los Osos and Camarillo -- both of which were league champions -- put Aliso Niguel (11-6) in position to defeat visiting Santiago of Corona, 11-7, on Monday to advance the Wolverines to their first semifinal in school history.
"We felt like we deserved a seed in the playoffs, even with four (league) losses, given the schedule we played," Wolverines coach Peter Kelley said. "When we didn't get one, I think it lit us up. ... Every day last week the girls came to practice pumped up and ready to play hard."
A 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 sweep by the all-senior No. 1 doubles team of Denise Ogranovich and Jessica Murphy gave Aliso Niguel -- which missed the playoffs last season -- three of its six doubles sets.
The No. 3 team of Shelby Le and Serena Wong claimed two of three, including a vital 7-6 tiebreaker in the second round.
"It completely got us ready," Kelley said of the Sea View League schedule. "Our doubles were pushed all season long and now they're ready for anything. It has absolutely helped us in the last week and a half."
Wolverines No. 1 singles player, freshman Becky Chou, took two sets 6-0 and improved her individual postseason record to 10-2.
"Becky has been our freshman phenom," Kelley said. "She's so mellow and laid back; she doesn't let anything stop her from what she wants to accomplish. ... She definitely doesn't look or play like a freshman."
Leading 4-2 after the first round, Aliso Niguel held a 7-4 edge with the final set of the second round ongoing. Trailing at 4-1, and eventually at 6-3 in the tiebreaker, Le and Wong upset the No. 2 team of Santiago (10-3) to give the hosts enough breathing room to take the match with a stress-free final round.
"We've just played awesome these last couple matches," Kelley said.
Aliso Niguel will travel to play Arroyo Grande in Wednesday's semifinals match at 2 p.m.