The Mira Costa girls’ tennis team just concluded what might be their most successful regular season ever and now look ahead to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. The No. 3 ranked team in the Open Division, Mira Costa defeated rival Redondo Union 16-2 in head coach Joe Ciasulli’s final Bay League and regular season match in Manhattan Beach last Tuesday.
“I’m not thinking about it at all,” said Ciasulli of his final match, with just the postseason left. “I’m in a good place and I’ve had a good run.”
He is going out on top and is not one to be nostalgic about it.
“It’s really sad that Joe is leaving,” said Mira Costa’s No. 1 singles player Audrey Vo. “What is amazing about Joe is he really cares about the players.”
Mira Costa finished second in the Bay League with a 4-2 record, both losses coming against league champion Peninsula, ranked No. 2 in the Open Division.
Ciasulli is retiring after the playoffs and has Mira Costa ranked the highest it has ever been. The win over Redondo Union improved their overall record to 19-3.
Now they will look to win a first round match in the Open Division for the first time ever.
The coach hopes he can send the team out on a high note if they can qualify for the state tournament. Only the teams that compete in the Open Division get to play in the state tournament. But there is a catch.
According to Ciasulli, they must win at least their first round match to qualify for the state tournament. They will be favored to do that, but everyone in the Open Division is a quality opponent for the most part so there are no givens. They will have to bring their best starting with the first round.
“That would be amazing,” said Vo about getting a shot of playing in state tournament. “I think the girls are all excited to extend our season.”
Mira Costa gave Peninsula a run for its money in their second league meeting losing after tying 9-9 and in games 71-71. They had to play 18 tiebreakers and ended up losing. Had they won they would have split the league title.
“Peninsula, when they have all their players, is the best team in Southern California,” Ciasulli said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
Maddie Jessup, freshman, is their star player and they have another player that is a stand-out.
Beating Peninsula is like trying to beat the best team in the state just about every year. Mira Costa never won Bay League while he was head coach of the girls since 2004.
He “enjoyed the challenge” of facing the Panthers.
Ciasulli brought the Mira Costa program to the level of play just below Peninsula.
“I’m proud of where our program is. I’m proud of where I’ve taken it from where I got it.”
Getting girls to play tennis at Mira Costa is what he is more proud of.
Coming off a year when they won their first CIF-Southern Section Division championship was a difficult follow up, but this year’s team exceeded expectations and racked up victories against everyone, but University and Peninsula.
“This team achieved more than any other team even though last year we won the CIF championship,” Ciasulli said. “They surprised me. They got more out of their ability than any team I coached.”
They won the Golden State tournament against the best Northern California teams.
The two best players Ciasulli ever coached were Nicole Gibbs and Maegan Manasse, both went on to college and pro careers. Gibbs won two NCAA singles titles while at Stanford.
Results from the Mira Costa and Redondo Union match.
In singles, Mira Costa’s Audrey Vo won three sets 6-3, 6-0, and 6-3; Haily Huynh won two sets 6-4, 6-2; and Olga Nagy won two sets 6-4, 6-3.
In doubles, Mira Costa’s Kacey Feng/Sydney Vo won one set 6-0; Hannah Bergin/Amanda Scott won two sets 6-0, 6-0; Peyton Douglas/Kiki Daviduk won three sets 6-1, 6-0, and 6-2; Ella Davis/Sydney Miller won one set 6-1; Ella Lokier/Amanda Scott won one set 7-5; and Sydney Miller/Ainsley McComb won one set 6-2.
Jim Ball, who is the dean of all South Bay tennis coaches and is in his 52nd year at Redondo Union, had this to say about Ciasulli and the program he brought to new heights.
“Mira Costa has really been a great program under Joe,” Ball said. “He has done a fine job. It’s not easy coaching a lot of talented girls and boys who all want to be first string and starters.”
Ball added, “It’s always a pleasure coaching against him.”
With the loss, Redondo Union dropped to 7-7 overall and are 0-6 in the Bay League. They are ranked No. 2 in Division 2 and are awaiting an at-large bid for Division 2.
Jessica Seibert, who has coached the girls’ team since 2012 has had to face a tougher Mira Costa program in recent years. She spoke about Ciasulli.
“I think he’s very organized and structured and I think that lends to the program and it shows in the results they’ve had. He is always competitive.”
Seibert gave him the ultimate compliment.
“He’s a true competitor.”