After the math was checked, double-checked and — just to be completely sure — added together one last time and a tiebreaking loss was confirmed, Arroyo Grande High girls tennis coach Lori Hollister looked up from her clipboard to the Eagles who encircled her and the coach from visiting Valencia.
“Great match, everybody,” she said.
All were in agreement.
Arroyo Grande and the top-seeded and unbeaten Vikings played to a 9-9 decision on Monday afternoon in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals, with Valencia winning the tiebreaker, 81-73 in games won.
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“You really can’t ask for more as a coach,” said Hollister after her defending Division 3 champions were eliminated. “These girls, particularly these seniors, have been through a lot together, and they know how to compete. I thought they performed very well today from top to bottom.”
Both teams won a set via tiebreaker, both claimed 21 games through the first rotation, and both won six of 12 sets heading into the final round.
In hindsight, maybe the Eagles could have kept a set closer or won another more convincingly, but after these same Vikings had beaten Arroyo Grande with ease in September, there were no heads hanging in defeat this time around.
“It’s hard to go out with a loss, but I think we played the best tennis that we’ve ever played,” senior Angelica Gagliano said. “The positive outlook is that’s a great experience to have and take with us.”
Gagliano and partner Olivia Madison had won the lone doubles set for the PAC 8 champion Eagles in a 12-6 defeat on Sept. 26, and the pair won another set on Monday.
“It’s a testament to how much our coaches dedicate to us,” Madison said. “We already played them this year because our coach organized that outside of our league schedule. So we knew going into this that they are a good team and that we’d have to give it our all.”
Hannah Angle and Mary Waterman won two sets in doubles, holding on to win the first 6-4 after leading 5-0 and winning their third 7-5.
The pairing of Elizabeth Michniuk and Mekayla Landers earned a 6-3 win between 6-1 defeats.
“This team is strong in their doubles,” Hollister said of Valencia. “They’ve been losing in their singles and then sweep their doubles, so for us to get four sets — almost six sets — in the doubles is a huge improvement from our last match against them.”
In singles, Sophie Whittle swept her sets 6-3, 6-0, 6-1, and Melina Rodgers and Jillian Burns both won one for Arroyo Grande (22-5).
The Foothill League champion Vikings (22-0) were able to win three singles sets 6-0 — two by four-star freshman recruit Jennifer Shin, who also took three games from Whittle — helping build the advantage in games that eventually proved to be the difference.
Madison and Gagliano also played a pair of close sets after winning their opener 6-2, but Valencia pulled out wins in both, 7-6 (2) and 6-4.
“When you play a team that’s well coached and the caliber that this team is, these sets can go either way,” Hollister said. “We had about 50 percent go our way and 50 percent for their way, and that’s just the way good tennis is.”
In the other set that went to a tiebreaker, Burns and her No. 3 singles opponent found themselves at the center of attention after the rest of the first rotation had already finished.
Burns trailed 4-3 before the junior fought back to go up 6-5 and eventually take the tiebreaker 7-2.
“She performed the best I’ve ever seen her play,” Madison said. “We all have breakthroughs throughout the season. You can just see how we’ve come full circle, and how much we’ve improved.”
The season continues for Whittle, Madison and Gagliano at the Southern Section individual championships Nov. 24 in Carpinteria, while Valencia advances to the team semifinals in search of its first divisional championship.
“They’re the No. 1 seed, and they were expected to win today,” Hollister said. “This is what it took for us (last year), pulling out these tight matches. Last year it went our way, and this time it didn’t.
“I told our seniors that in the past four years, we’ve been to the quarterfinals twice, lost in the finals once and won CIF (Division 3) once. There aren’t a lot of kids or coaches that can say that.”