University's Celine Gruaz swings through a shot during the second set of Tuesday's CIF State Regionals match against Westview of San Diego.

New tournament different kind of test for University


University’s girls tennis program has experienced a number of firsts over the last two seasons - its first No. 1 overall ranking in Orange County, its first CIF-SS Division 1 championship match in 40 years, its first repeat appearance in the finals.

All of those things the Trojans achieved with excellence through and through.

In its inaugural CIF State Regionals match, however, third-seeded University (21-3) struggled mightily, but not for the reasons some might think.

Four days removed from its taxing CIF-SS Division 1 title match against Campbell Hall, the Trojans showed noticeable fatigue as they ground their way to a 7-0 victory over Westview of San Diego on Tuesday afternoon at University High.

“In a way, it (the state regionals) is anticlimactic,” University coach John Kessler said. “With all the emotion that went into playing Friday in the finals, it’s tough to bounce back. On the one hand, there’s excitement, but on the other hand, it’s anticlimactic.”

The inaugural 16-team tournament includes teams from all four of Southern California’s CIF sections -- Central, Los Angeles, San Diego and Southern -- and is played as a best-of-seven match.

Lineups are comprised of four singles players and three doubles teams. Each set is best-of-three, with the winner claiming one point for their school.

“The 4-3 format is different than what we’ve been playing all season so you have to make the proper adjustments,” Kessler said. “It’s tough because it’s not really a team format. If you think about it, four good singles players can beat an entire team of 10 (players).”

With last week’s CIF-SS playoffs coming to a close and next week’s CIF Individuals tournament on the horizon, Kessler -- along with a number of other coaches -- has expressed his concern with not only the timing of the new postseason tournament, but its affect on the players’ schoolwork.

“These girls have not been in class a lot recently,” Kessler said. “Teachers are having to test them early because they’re not there for classes. They’re missing a lot of school to make these matches and the girls are feeling it, you can tell.”

Still, University advanced to Friday’s second round at The Claremont Club with a strong all-around effort, sweeping the doubles draw with four sets ending 6-0. Its No. 1 team of Shannon Theisen and Danielle Pham won 6-0, 6-1.

“Our strength has always been doubles,” Kessler said, “so does this format hurt us? I’d say that we’re deeper than a lot of teams so stretching those players out helps us a lot.”

Despite the hectic schedule (three matches last week, two the week before in addition to league finals back in mid-October), Kessler expects his girls to be prepared and up for the stretch run.

“I think the excitement will build as we get closer to Friday and Saturday,” he said. “Today we were a little slow and I thought we were going through the motions a little bit, but I don’t blame the girls in any way, shape or form.”

In another first round match:

Dana Hills 7, Stockdale of Bakersfield 0: The Dolphins (20-2) won 11 of their 14 sets by scores of  6-0, including a pair by Cassidy Spearman at No. 3 singles, as they easily advanced to the second round. Seniors Alyssa Smith and Jessica Perez also swept.

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