The Mira Costa girls’ tennis team finished in the top four of both the CIF Southern Section Open Division and CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs this season. Their run came to an end following a 6-1 loss in the regional semifinals against University High School from Irvine in the state playoffs at the Claremont Club in Claremont last Friday.

It is the first time in school history the girls team has competed in the playoffs in either and they were knocked out in the semifinals both times. They came closest to reaching the CIF Southern Section Open Division final after losing 10-8 at home on November 13 to Peninsula, which went on to win the title.

“Competing in state was a really neat experience,” said Mira Costa head coach Joe Ciasulli, who ended his career. “There were so many good teams, so it was tough competition. The first round was a but nerve wracking because it was the first round.”

“It meant a lot to me to even make it to state and also get to the semifinals of both CIF and State,” said Mira Costa’s Haily Huynh.

Peninsula and University were the only schools ranked ahead of Mira Costa all season. Mira Costa was 0-2 against University and 1-2 against Peninsula.

It was also the end of a career for Ciasulli, who saw his teams set new standards in his final season.

“It was a great way to end my career,” Ciasulli said. “In the first match against Westview (in the first round of the state tourney), the girls performed just as they did all year long. They were great.”

They defeated Westview out of San Diego 6-1 before losing to University. University went on to beat Westlake in the championship 5-2 last Saturday.

“It’s crazy to know that was Joe’s last match ever,” said Mira Costa senior Audrey Vo, who played her final career match with the team. “I hope that Joe knows everyone had a great time this year, and he will be missed by a lot of the players next year. I have had a great four years on the Mira Costa girls’ tennis team and a lot of that has to do with Joe.”

“It was one of the best days of the season, we all had so much fun and made the most out of our last game this year,” said Mira Costa’s Kacey Feng.

Mira Costa set a school record in wins finishing 21-5.

This was the finest year of girls’ tennis at Mira Costa ever in Ciasulli’s last year.

“They've been special to me all year long and I will never forget the relationships I've developed (over the years),” Ciasulli said.

Mira Costa was ranked No. 3 in CIF-Southern Section Division 1 for most of the year behind University and Peninsula. They finished second in the Bay League behind CIF Open Division champion Peninsula. They reached the semifinals in the CIF-Section Open Division and reached the CIF State Southern California Regional semifinal. They won the Golden State Tennis Classic against the best Northern California teams and were third in the Point Loma tournament.

“I thought this was going to be a rebuilding year since we lost two important players, but I think everyone has worked hard and became closer as a team,” Huynh said. “I think we have improved so much throughout the season and I am glad we were able to play well and have an amazing season.”

They also had three players qualify for CIF Southern Section Individuals and reach the final 32 round; Audrey Vo in singles, and Sydney Vo and Feng in doubles.

In his career, Ciasulli also coached Maegan Manasse who won CIF Individuals in singles and Nicole Gibbs, who won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Stanford. Both play professionally.

After their loss to University, it was still a joy for the team in their last time together and Joe as a coach.

“It was a very emotional day, as it was Joe and the seniors’ last team match, but everyone was spirited and energized,” Feng said. “We had the best bus ride back home from Claremont too, and then ended it with 'Frozen 2' (movie).”

Ciasulli finished as one of the top coaches Mira Costa has had in any sport with that many years of coaching. He had a winning percentage of .716.

He was 240-100-1 with the boys and 245-89-2 with the girls. Combined he had a record of 485-189-3. And in all 15 seasons with the boys and girls, they made the playoffs every year.

Against Westview in the first round, they won their first state match.

Mira Costa’s Audrey Vo won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; Huynh won 6-2, 6-2; Ella Davis won 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in singles. In doubles, Feng/Sydney Vo won 6-2, 6-2; Olga Nagy/Amanda Scott won 6-3, 6-1; and Kiki Daviduk/Peyton Douglas won 6-0, 6-2.

They played University for the second time this season in the semifinals.

“University was just too strong,” Ciasulli said. “This time they had their entire team. Our girls fought hard and all of the doubles matches were extremely competitive but only Feng/Audrey Vo were able to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 against University's No. 1 doubles team.”

“Even though we lost to University we all had a good mentality at the end and we were just all having fun together,” Sydney Vo said. “We all just had a fun time and enjoying playing together and it being our last match with Joe.”

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There is one fit of final business to take care of. In CIF Southern Section Individuals, the doubles team of Sydney Vo and Feng has reached the final day of competition after winning their matches last Tuesday.

“We don’t know what to expect with the competition, but we are just going to try our best and just enjoy the experience we get to have,” Sydney Vo said.

“We won our matches 6-0, 6-0, and 6-1, 6-0,” Feng said. “We won our qualifying bracket for today and get to move on to the main draw next week at Seal Beach Tennis Center. I am very excited because all of the best teams from each league will be there and we will get to play lots of good tennis there.”

Audrey Vo was knocked out in the singles competition.

Against Peninsula in the playoff match they lost 10-8.

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In singles, Audrey Vo won one set 6-1; Huynh won one set 6-2; Davis won one set 6-0. In doubles, Feng/Sydney Vo won three sets 7-5, 6-4, 6-0; Douglas/Daviduk won one set 6-3; and Nagy/Scott won one set 6-2.

“We got very close with Peninsula, but I think that we are equally as good,” Huynh said.

“The CIF semifinals against Peninsula was a really neat experience and even though we lost it was really close,” said Ciasulli of his final CIF match. “The whole team was good at supporting everyone and cheering on all the matches.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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