Moving from the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 tournament to the Division 2 bracket is expected to bring a step up in competition for the Arroyo Grande High girls tennis team.
For at least one round, the Eagles proved more than up to the task.
The PAC 8 powerhouse and defending Division 3 champs defeated visiting Sunny Hills 13-5 on Wednesday, winning 11 of their sets 6-0.
“We worked all season to finish off sets without giving up games,” Arroyo Grande coach Lori Hollister said. “We had a lot of 9-all matches last year, and it really paid off for us because we learned not to give up those games.”
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Sophie Whittle swept her singles sets by identical 6-0 scores as did the doubles team of Olivia Madison and Angelica Gagliano.
“You definitely don’t want to give them games,” Whittle said. “It can come down to games like it did in a couple matches last year, so all of those games are really important.”
Whittle, Madison and Gagliano were crowned PAC 8 champions last week in singles and doubles, respectively, but were far from the only ones to make an impact in the opening round of the playoffs.
Jillian Burns and Elizabeth Michniuk both won a singles set 6-0, the doubles team of Mary Waterman and Hannah Angle swept its sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-3, and the tandem of Melina Rodgers and Mekayla Landers bounced back from a 6-4 defeat to win its next two sets 6-0, 6-0.
“That’s what’s great about this team,” said Rodgers, one of seven seniors on the Eagles roster. “We can always go out and start new. That’s been really important to all of us this season; just being able to go out there despite what the previous score was.”
Arroyo Grande has jumbled its starting lineup throughout the year, and Hollister said she likes having the ability to be flexible.
“It’s never a final lineup,” she said. “All season, we’ve had the ability to move girls back and forth from singles to doubles, and I’m never set in my lineup.
“I thought we came out today as a very balanced team, and ideally that’s what I’d like to create: a balanced team.”
Waterman and Angle both saw time at singles this year, but combined Wednesday to form a formidable duo at No. 3 doubles as the Eagles continued to get production up and down the courts.
“I think because so many of us are seniors, that definitely gives us an edge,” Landers said. “We all have good experience, and we’ve played together all four years, so we’re like a little family.”
It will be a road trip in the family van — or bus — for the second round as Arroyo Grande (21-4) lost the coin flip, meaning the Eagles will travel to Thousand Oaks to face La Reina on Friday afternoon. The Tri-Valley League champions defeated wild card Ayala 11-7 on Wednesday.
“Compared to where we had to travel last year — to Temecula three or four times — going to Thousand Oaks isn’t as far,” Hollister said. “The girls like to travel. They do well on the road. They just have more bonding time.”
Sunny Hills, the second seed out of the Freeway League, traveled from Fullerton to face Arroyo Grande. Despite leaving at 6:30 a.m., traffic made the journey longer than the estimated 4 hours, 45 minutes, and the match was delayed about 20 minutes as the Lancers arrived just ahead of the 2 p.m. start time.
Once things got underway, Arroyo Grande had little trouble making sure its Division 2 playoff debut was a successful one.
“I was just trying to not think about the division too much,” Rodgers said. “There were definitely some nerves because we were comfortable in Division 3, but it’s good to have a new challenge.”