When Lauren Hayashi graduated this past spring, the Arroyo Grande High girls tennis team lost half of a dynamic one-two punch in singles that lifted the Eagles to a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship in 2013.
In a match Thursday at rival San Luis Obispo, Elizabeth Michniuk and Mary Waterman showed that the singles cupboard is far from bare behind star senior Sophie Whittle.
Michniuk and Waterman combined to win five of six sets, Whittle rolled to three 6-0 victories, and Arroyo Grande overcame an early two-set deficit after the first rotation to win 12-6.
“It feels great to come away with the win, even more because we had to really fight for it,” said Eagles coach Lori Hollister, whose team trailed 4-2 through one round.
“Facing this type of adversity, on their court, and being able to pull this out after that first round and come back 5-1 in the second round will really help us in the long run.”
Arroyo Grande (7-2, 3-0 PAC 8) has not lost a league match since 2009, which includes snapping San Luis Obispo’s six-year PAC 7 unbeaten streak on Sept. 29, 2010.
“They’re our rivals, so there’s always a little tension between our two schools,” said Whittle, a four-star recruit who went 61-2 last season. “Most of the matches are a little closer. We don’t play tight, but it’s more of a challenge for us compared to the other teams in the league.” The Tigers (3-3, 2-1) agreed.
“We get a lot of good tennis (playing Arroyo Grande), which helps us in the end,” said San Luis Obispo’s Anna Lippold, who teamed with fellow senior Fiona Huffaker to win two of three doubles sets. “When I’m playing light hitters, I do worse. Playing against hard hitters like this helps me a lot.”
The Tigers stormed out of the gates, winning all three doubles sets in the first rotation and getting a singles win from Sophia Moreno.
But on the strength of their singles play, the Eagles went 10-2 in the next two rotations.
“I was really proud of my girls,” San Luis Obispo’s first-year coach Rosemarie Will said. “We came out strong in that first round, but my girls just aren’t as match tough as Arroyo Grande at this point in the season.
“We knew our doubles would have to dominate otherwise we don’t have a chance.”
Lippold and Huffaker won two sets 6-4, 6-4 before falling 6-4 in the final round. The Tigers doubles tandem of Caroline Burke and Sam Good went 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
It wasn’t enough to slow the Eagles, as Whittle cruised and Waterman, who was on the third doubles team as a freshman in 2013, won 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.
“Mary is a fighter, and Mary will do whatever it is you need of her,” Hollister said. “She knew we needed one more set. She was struggling out there a bit, but she rose to the occasion for her team and that pulled out that last set there.”
The doubles team of Melina Rodgers and Mekayla Landers won two of three for Arroyo Grande, and Michniuk shook off a foot cramp to win her final two sets.
“She cramped up in her arch and she still fought that out,” Hollister said. “So again, that kind of adversity this early in the season will really help us in the long run. I just think our experience carried us through today.”