Lori Hollister has been the boys tennis coach at Arroyo Grande High for four years, but it may as well have been 26 years.
It was 1984 the last time the Eagles had defeated archrival San Luis Obispo, and, not coincidently, the last time they had won a league championship.
Until now, that is, on both counts.
Arroyo Grande edged the Tigers 10-8 on Tuesday afternoon at San Luis Obispo High, sweeping the season series between the two. The Eagles had claimed the first matchup 10-8, as well, on April 1 — at which point in time it became all but a certainty they’d at least share the PAC 7 title.
But by winning Tuesday’s rematch, the regular-season finale, they’ll own the crown outright.
“We knew we had our name on that (league-title) banner already this year,” Hollister said, “but we wanted to do it all by ourselves.
“I was getting tired of sitting at basketball and volleyball games (at Arroyo Grande’s James Gym) and looking up there (amongst other sports’ recent league-championship banners) and not seeing anything in boys tennis.”
The Eagles (16-3, 12-0 PAC 7), who were ranked ninth or 10th in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 poll most of this season before just falling out this past week, will learn their postseason fate Monday, when divisional playoff pairings are announced.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hollister said of the season as a whole. “Everything has kind of played out the way we planned this year.”
Among those in attendance Tuesday was 2008 Arroyo Grande grad Andre Dome, a current Cal Poly player who was commonly rated as one of the country’s 10 best recruits as a senior. Even then, though, Arroyo Grande was unable to do what it did this year.
“Since we haven’t won for 26 years, it really means something to our school and our program,” Eagles freshman Eli Whittle said. “There was pressure going into the match knowing we had to beat them. Our coach was saying, ‘We don’t want to be co-champions.’ ”
Whittle, the Eagles’ No. 1 singles player, rated by TennisRecruiting.net as the No. 57 player in the Southwest region in his class, swept 6-0, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0. His second set, a come-from-behind turning point for the match, as Hollister described it, came against Tigers senior James Campbell.
In an oft-heated contest — which was the last second-round matchup to finish — both players occasionally questioned the other’s line judgments before Hollister and San Luis Obispo coach Ken Peet stepped in to officiate.
“In those close sets, we were able to make big breaks and serve well and close out points,” Hollister said.
“I have a lot of respect for James Campbell,” Hollister added. “He’s a good friend, a great individual and a very good player. He’s a senior, and Eli’s a freshman. In terms of their ability levels, they’re comparable to each other, and sometimes (when it’s a close matchup) the senior will pull through (due to experience). For Eli to be able to hold up to that pressure was just phenomenal.”
Whittle’s second victory wasn’t the only pivotal moment for the Eagles, however. Their No. 2 singles star, fellow freshman Sean Hollister, topped Coco Angulo 7-5 early before Kenji McKinstry clinched the team victory with a 6-3 triumph over Shahrukh Syed.
The match was tied 3-3 after Round 1 before Arroyo Grande took a 7-5 lead into Round 3.
“I was just really nervous the whole time,” McKinstry said of knowing he could be the one to clinch the season sweep. “I felt really relieved (when it was over).”
Campbell led the Tigers’ singles efforts with a 6-0, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 performance.
“We competed well and fought hard,” Peet said. “It was just a great match again. Congrats to A.G. — they’ll represent our league (as a No. 1 seed in the postseason) well.
“There’s a lot of tradition here,” Peet said of the 26-year streak, “so it’s a little tough to get beat, but there are no regrets. These guys played hard, and hats off to A.G.”
Arroyo Grande got two doubles wins from Danny Williams and Evan Lange, who went 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
“Everyone played their role really well,” Whittle said.
Peter Angulo and Tomas Jimenez swept 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 for San Luis Obispo, while Robbie Milla and Grant Murphy went 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 5-7 for the Tigers (9-8, 8-2 PAC 7), who will enter the divisional playoffs as the league’s No. 2 seed.