Arroyo Grande High’s girls tennis team has gotten used to extremely tight matches this postseason.
That experience under pressure paid off in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship Friday in Claremont.
The Eagles (21-1) won the match against Murrieta Valley (21-1) in another nailbiter — 9-9 in sets and 77-74 in the tiebreaker decided by games.
The Southern Section divisional title is the first in the school’s history for girls tennis and comes in the wake of a title won by the Eagles’ boys tennis team last spring over San Luis Obispo.
Arroyo Grande’s girls squad was runner-up last season, losing to Laguna Hills 10-8, and the Eagles also were a finalist in 1983, Arroyo Grande coach Lori Hollister said by phone.
“Having been in the finals last year, they knew what they had to do to get back to this point,” Hollister said. “I really think our tight matches in the quarterfinals and semis this season really helped. Words can’t express how good it feels to see their hard work come through and be rewarded with this championship today.”
Arroyo Grande’s No. 1 singles player, Sophie Whittle, remained undefeated for the season with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 sweep, improving to 58-0.
And the No. 2 singles player, senior Lauren Hayashi, also mowed through her competition, winning 6-0, 6-2, 6-0. She is 61-5 this year.
“We knew we had to stay focused,” Hayashi said. “We weren’t concentrating on anything but tennis. … It is really nice, not just as a senior, but as a team in general, to win a championship.”
The Eagles got a boost from their No. 2 doubles team of Olivia Madison and Mekayla Landers, who won two of three 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (9-11).
Madison and Landers battled tough to try to win the last match of the day and clinch on sets 10-8, but fell just short in the tiebreaker.
“They were fighting very hard to win that one,” Hollister said.
And the No. 3 team of freshman Mary Waterman and junior Hannah Angle won a 6-4 set to tie the match at 9 and clinch the victory with games.
“Mary is a freshman, and she just started playing with Hannah in the semis,” Hollister said.
“That’s been the nature of our doubles. In the semis, Joanne Phung and Angelica Gagliano played great. Today, Olivia and Mekayla were terrific, and Mary and Hannah really stepped up.”
The title caps off an impressive week of tense victories for the Eagles, including a 9-9 (76-75) victory over Vista Murrieta on Monday and a 10-8 win at home over Malibu on Wednesday.
Whittle, a junior, rarely was challenged throughout the season, often winning her sets 6-0.
On Friday, she admitted to not playing her best but still the closest set was 6-3.
Whittle said as a team, Arroyo Grande was much better prepared for the final this year.
“This was a total team effort,” Whittle said. “We came ready. We all knew what we had to do. All the hard work paid off.”