The Mira Costa girls’ tennis team, ranked No. 3 in the latest CIF-Southern Section poll, played the No. 1 ranked team in Southern California, University, from Irvine in the Point Loma Tournament at the Barnes Center in San Diego last Saturday.
The Mustangs brought in a 12-0 record into the contest.
They played University tough losing several tiebreakers, but were not able to get enough victories in the semifinal tournament match and saw its unbeaten streak come to an end in a 4-2 loss.
They went on to beat Peninsula, who is ranked No. 2 in the rankings, for third place. It was another impressive showing for Mira Costa this season against top notch opponents.
Haily Huynh picked up one of Mira Costa’s two points in singles winning 1-6, 7-5, and 11-9.
“I thought the match against University was very close and definitely winnable,” Huynh said. “If we won a few important points and a few more games, the match could have easily been different. The doubles did very well but again only a few more points and games could have changed the match drastically.”
She added, “University was a really fun team to compete with and I’m really glad our team was able to win matches. We definitely competed and didn’t get killed.”
Mira Costa demonstrated their talents in going up against the No. 1 team.
“I now know this team is very special,” said Mira Costa girls’ head tennis coach Joe Ciasulli. “All of the girls have improved significantly since last season.”
In addition to Huynh’s win in singles, Hannah Bergin/Kiki Daviduk won 6-1, 6-2 in their doubles match for the other Mira Costa point against University.
“We had a very close match against University and it was tough knowing we were so close to winning against them,” said doubles player Amanda Scott. “Overall we got third which was great since there were so many great teams playing in the tournament.”
Mira Costa lost three of the matches in tiebreakers.
“Going into the University match in the semifinals, the team knew it was going to be very hard, since University is one of the best teams in California,” said Mira Costa doubles player Kacey Feng.
Feng and Sydney Vo lost their first set in a tiebreak 7-6.
“In the next set, we had to play more aggressive at the net, and won 6-4,” Feng said. “When it came down to the tiebreak, we started off down, so it was very hard to come back and unfortunately we lost 10-6. I was really disappointed because it was me and Sydney’s first loss all season, as well as the team’s.”
She felt the pressure.
“I think that since we had been undefeated all season, there was a lot of pressure to win. Everyone was really sad since it was our first loss and we were so close to the championships. I think that on a better day, we definitely could have beaten them and made it to the finals.”
University went on to win the tournament.
“It would have been great to get first in Stanford and San Diego, but hopefully we can come back and win CIFs again this year,” Feng said.
Mira Costa took third after beating Peninsula 5-1 in the third-place match.
In singles, Feng won 6-2, 6-3; Ella Lokier won 6-0, 6-0.
In doubles, Huynh/Audrey Vo won 6-3, 7-6(1); Amanda Scott/Sydney Vo won 6-2, 6-1; and Ella Davis/Peyton Douglas won 6-0, 6-0.
Mira Costa is currently 13-1 overall for the season.
The tournament began with Mira Costa winning its first match over Rancho Bernardo 5 to 1. They then beat Canyon Crest, the defending CIF San Diego Section champion, 4-2.
After winning its first CIF title last year, this year’s team might even be better. But where last year they were able to compete in Division 1, this year they will have to win the Open Division if they are to repeat.
It could happen though after competing against University.
“I think we did really well as a team and I’m really proud of our results,” Huynh said after the tournament. “It’s an honor to be able to play with such good teams in SoCal and compete at a high level. Our team has become so close and we have worked so hard to accomplish this and I’m really glad we were able to place third. I think we could have won but as a team we will have to lose eventually.”
Mira Costa’s presence near the top of the Division 1 poll says a lot about Ciasulli and his team. He credits the players.
“I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year,” said the coach, who is retiring at the end of this season. “We lost several key players from last season and didn't add any new varsity players.”
He added, “The players come to practice and work hard and they truly enjoy playing on the team together. From the first match, the team started winning.”
Ciasulli had this to say about some of his players.
“Audrey Vo has become even more cerebral. She makes mid-match adjustments and figures out how to give her opponents fits. It has been fun to watch.”
“Haily Huynh may be the team's most valuable player. She just never quits and she has defeated quite a few players who were much higher ranked than her.”
“Kacey Feng/Sydney Vo may be one of the best doubles teams in SoCal. Prior to this weekend, they were undefeated while playing against our very difficult schedule before they lost this weekend to University's No.1 team in a third-set tiebreaker.”
Mira Costa's goal is to win the Open Division this year.
“It's a real honor for us to be in the Open Division, playing with the best of the best,” Ciasulli said. “No matter what happens with the remainder of the season, I couldn't think of a better ending for my career. A very special group of girls.”