University's Yuki Asami concentrates on a return during the first round of Wednesday's semifinals match against Dana Hills.

University survives Dana Hills in semifinals


Ever since Dana Hills clipped University, 10-8, in last season’s CIF-SS Division 1 championship match, it figured these two teams would meet again in the postseason. And Wednesday's match didn't disappoint.

In the schools' third meeting of the season, and what was easily the match of the year, University (20-2) rode its trio of doubles teams to a 9-8 victory over the Dolphins (19-2) on Wednesday afternoon at Dana Hills High.

“This was a tough match because Dana is ultra-competitive,” Trojans coach John Kessler said. “They get up, they’re very energetic; these are some tough matches. It’s mentally and physically draining, and we seem to keep meeting each other.”

Each of the Trojans’ doubles teams took two sets -- with scores ranging from 6-0 to 6-4 -- as part of the visitors’ 6-3 edge in sets and 40-30 advantage in games.

“The hard thing about playing Dana Hills is, is this our championship?” Kessler said. “Is this that kind of match? It’s emotional, physical, we’re neighbors, we have history. ... That makes Friday very difficult because now we have to recover from this match.”

University’s triumph -- which was called due to darkness and an insurmountable lead in games if the final set had produced a 9-9 tie -- puts the Pacific Coast League champions in the Division 1 title match for the second consecutive year.

“We lost three girls (from last season) and that was big, losing those girls,” Kessler said, “and we didn’t know how we were going to fit the pieces together this year. ... To be honest, I thought we were a top-4 team, but I don’t know if I thought we were going to go back to the championship.”

Dana Hills’ Alyssa Smith (6-3, 6-0, 6-1) and the duo of Margo Pletcher and Cassidy Spearman (6-2, 6-0, 6-2) both swept. Jessica Perez claimed a pair of sets, 7-5, and played the third to a darkness-shortened 6-all draw.

University will face top-seeded Campbell Hall on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Claremont Club.

“For us, our singles are good to compete and our doubles keep coming through,” Kessler said. “We keep preaching that it’s a team concept; that we can’t win with just a couple girls; that we need everybody to win, and I think that has been our formula.”

In another semifinal:

In Division 3:

Laguna Hills 11, Malibu 7: Alexandra Valenstein and Mikey Barthelmass swept their No. 2 and No. 3 singles matches as the Eagles defeated the Sharks.

The Hawks will play the winner of the Aliso Niguel and Arroyo Grande semifinal Friday at The Claremont Club.

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