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St. Margaret's edges Sage Hill to grab second place
SAN CLEMENTE - By the time St. Margaret's' regular-season finale rolled around Tuesday afternoon, Sage Hill had already managed to spoil the Tartans' bid to win the Academy League championship.
If that wasn't enough adversity for one day, the Tartans' rival was gunning to knock them out of second place too.
After dropping a restarted league match earlier in the afternoon, St. Margaret's (15-2, 8-2) showed notable resiliency and edged the Lightning, 10-6, at Rancho San Clemente Tennis Club.
"I've always separated the season into three parts: the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs," Tartans coach Rick Trager said. "Winning our last match against a good team like Sage is big for us. It would've been demoralizing had we lost to them twice in one day."
Sage Hill (13-7, 7-3) and St. Margaret's started the day by completing their April 25 match that had been interrupted by rain. By winning that match, Sage Hill ended St. Margaret's hopes to share the league title with Whitney. The loss also put the Lightning, the reigning CIF-SS Division 3 champs, in position to snatch the league's No. 2 seed from the Tartans as well.
"I'd rather play 12 matches a year like the one we played earlier than easy ones, especially at the end of the season," Trager said. "That's what you need going into CIF, competitive matches.
"You can't go into the playoffs with a bunch of fluff matches or you're going to get overwhelmed very quickly."
In what was essentially their second match of the afternoon, St. Margaret's claimed a pair of opening-round singles and doubles sets, split the second round and grabbed the three necessary sets in the third for a 10-6 triumph.
"I think after that first match we still had the feeling of patting ourselves on the back," Lightning coach A.G. Longoria said. "Then we got down 4-2 and put ourselves in a hole. Had it been 3-3 it could've been different, but that's the way it goes."
With the split, St. Margaret's and Sage Hill finish second and third, respectively, to Academy League champion Whitney.
"You always want to win against Sage," Trager said. "We win a match like that and it builds confidence going into the playoffs. Obviously you want to win a league title, but winning a CIF championship is more important."