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KAREN TAPIA, FOR THE REGISTER
Laguna Hills' Alexandra Valenstein returns a shot while playing for the CIF-SS Division 3 championship on Friday in Claremont.

Laguna Hills passes final test, wins Div. 3 title

FOR OCVARSITY.COM

CLAREMONT - Laguna Hills' girls tennis team hasn't had what you would call a "typical" season.

Between playing an entire pre-league schedule without their top two girls, to winning just one match before beginning Sea View League play, to making the playoffs with a 7-9 overall record, the Hawks didn't get a real chance to hit their apex until the postseason started.

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CIF FINALS: University falls short in Div. 1 final

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Nevertheless, Laguna Hills (12-9) claimed its first CIF-SS Division 3 championship since 1998 with a 10-8 victory over Arroyo Grande (21-2) on Friday at The Claremont Club.

"When we play preseason, we play the Woodbridges, the Santa Margaritas, the Beckmans, so we play some good teams," Hawks coach Cary Crouch said. "They're going to beat us, but if you look at all the scores, if you give us six (sets) with the girls we were missing and take away six, we would've been in real good shape."

Sophomore Alex Valenstein (6-2, 6-0, 6-0) and senior Mikey Barthelmass (6-4, 6-1, 6-3) swept at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, and the No. 1 duo of Amanda Jaffe and Julia Traylor (6-4, 6-2, 6-0) claimed three of the Hawks' four doubles sets.

"We only have two kids that play any kind of tournaments," Crouch said. "The rest of the kids need to see how hard they (Valenstein and Barthelmass) play and understand the whole idea of playing extremely hard."

Barthelmass, who missed the preseason due to prearranged college visits, went 15-0 in the postseason and Valenstein, who spent the preseason playing in Chile, finished 14-1.

"The rest of the girls on our team see how Mikey will go through a game plan before a match and that's huge for us," Crouch said. "For her, with as much experience as she has, to listen and show the other kids that it's OK to listen is real important."

Tied at 6-all by the start of the third round, Laguna Hills took an insurmountable lead in games following Barthelmass' final-set victory. Regardless, Tiffany Lam and Arianna Bennett claimed their final doubles set, 7-6, to win the match outright.


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