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Mater Dei's Agbayani extends Trinity reign
RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA - During the third game of the first set of Wednesday's Trinity League singles championship, Mater Dei's Justin Agbayani returned a serve from Orange Lutheran's Blaine Mengert, followed it with a scorching rally from the baseline, then charged the net for his next move.
His third and final shot of the point was a magnificent drop shot that bounced inches from the net and, given the ball's backspin, wound up settling at its base.
"It's not fair," uttered one of the spectators.
Agbayani, the tournament's No. 1 singles seed and defending two-time champion, cruised to a two-set finals victory, 6-0, 6-2, at Santa Margarita High and put the finishing touch on an undefeated run through league play and an exclamation point on an already impressive senior season.
"It's a lot of practice, of course," the senior said of his seasoned game. "I'm confident in my game, I believe I can make any shot and I stay positive."
In the doubles bracket, Servite's Tanner Smith and Zach McEntee - the Friars' usual No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, respectively - edged Santa Margarita's Ricky Kurtz and Max Boice in the finals, 6-4, 6-2, to claim the league's doubles championship.
"We're both a little injured so playing doubles lets us take it easy a bit," Smith said. "The biggest difference is that you're not alone on the court. Since you have someone else with you, if you're not playing well, they can pick you up."
Aside from its two-set finals triumph, the newly-assembled twosome won single sets 6-4 and 6-3, and a pair of sets 6-0 and 6-1.
"It's my first Trinity League title so it's motivating heading into the playoff," Smith said. "And it's another patch for the letterman's jacket."
As for undefeated league champion Santa Margarita, the Eagles sent four representatives to the quarterfinals and produced alternates to the league's CIF singles and doubles qualifiers.
Moreover, with the team CIF tournament set to begin on Wednesday, the most important part of Santa Margarita's season still awaits.
"You need a good balance when you're playing team matches and we're lucky to have that this year," Eagles coach Doug Williams said. "You have to get 10 sets somewhere and it's always better to have a strong team top to bottom than just a couple horses."