University's Kaiulani Boyer readies her swing during the opening round of Friday's CIF-SS Division 1 playoff match against San Clemente.

University's doubles strength too much for San Clemente


SAN CLEMENTE - The way University’s doubles lineup has thrived - and at certain points, absolutely dominated - this season, you’d be hard pressed to believe that Coach John Kessler lost three All-County contributors from a team that reached the CIF-SS Division 1 championship match a year ago.

Nevertheless, the Trojans’ seamless blend of returning starters and new faces fueled a 14-4 second-round victory over San Clemente on Friday afternoon at San Clemente High.

“We lost three doubles starters from last year, and trying to find the right combinations has been difficult at times,” Kessler said. “Our girls are really good, but I don’t think we’re as strong as we were last year. ... Still, our doubles are pretty darn strong.”

As it did in an opening-round sweep of Flintridge Sacred Heart, University’s doubles lineup -- which regularly starts just one senior -- swept all nine sets. Celina Gruaz and Kyla Scott (6-0, 6-2, 6-1) and Danielle Pham and Sarah Mae Garcia (6-2, 6-1, 6-0) led the Trojans.

Pham, alongside Shannon Theisen, claimed the Pacific Coast League’s doubles championship last week by defeating Gruaz and Scott.

“Our girls playing at No. 3, Danielle and Sarah, have consistently beat firsts on other teams,” Kessler said. “The three girls from last year’s team, Danielle, Kyla and Theisen, bring so much experience in terms of formations and volleys.

“They’re all seasoned doubles players.”

After racing out to a 5-1 lead by the end of the first round, University -- the tournament’s No. 3 seed -- took five of six sets in the second to clinch its berth in Monday’s quarterfinal.

The Trojans (18-2) will likely host sixth-seeded Thousand Oaks at 2 p.m.

“We had to fill four important slots from a year ago,” Kessler said, “and everyone thinks that it’s a given we’re going to be just as good, but it’s tough to play at this high of a level consistently.”   

Senior Kayleigh Hall swept, 6-4, 6-0, 6-0, for San Clemente (10-5).

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