On paper, it looked like the had no difficulty defeating Grossmont to capture the Southern California Regional championship. On the court, however, it was not quite as easy as the 5-0 final score indicated.
The Corsairs notched the first five points, making doubles play unnecessary, but the match had plenty of drama. SMC fell behind in three out of the six singles matches, but in the end its talent and mental toughness prevailed Wednesday afternoon at .
With only two days to rest after claiming the program's first-ever team trophy at the , several Corsairs players looked sluggish and off their games early on and Coach prepared himself for a long, tense day.
He needn't have worried, however, as the host Corsairs responded like champions and earned themselves a few extra hours of much-needed rest before embarking on the two-and-a-half hour drive south to for the Southern Regional singles and doubles individual tournament to be played Thursday through Saturday.
The biggest turnaround was by No. 2 singles player , who lost the first set in 35 minutes and was down a break in the second before rallying back for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Grossmont's Sharon Reibstein. She ended the match with an emphatic overhead smash.
"I was going for too much in the first set and usually I'm very good at keeping the ball in," said Rodriguez, whose match was the last to finish of the five completed "I started focusing more on keeping the ball in the court and just being more consistent than she was. I also got great advice from Coach [Goldenson]. He's a little tough on me sometimes, but it's what I needed."
pulled off a similar comeback at No. 5 singles, dropping her first singles set in dual team play all season before recovering to dominate Grossmont's Jami Thomas over the final two sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. She also focused on cutting down her unforced errors to turn the tide of the match.
"In the first set, I wasn't expecting someone that good," said Kauffman, a sophomore from Strasburg, France. "I just told myself 'Be stronger than her.' I started hitting more balls in the court and she did the rest. She got frustrated."
was first off the court at No. 3 singles, winning 6-1, 6-1. Five minutes later, finished off her 6-0, 6-0 win at the No. 4 spot. Even though she didn't lose a game, Jutta admitted she felt pressure to win.
"I was so nervous because I knew the matches at No. 1 and No. 2 would be hard," said Jutta, a sophomore from Ivory Coast who played just a few blocks away her senior year at . "Everyone thought it would be tougher than it was."
was given fits in her match at No. 6 singles because her opponent Lupita Sandoval repeatedly sliced short, forcing Sacher to hit groundstrokes from the service line. In the first few games, Sacher sailed her two-handed shots long, but she quickly adjusted to hit clean winner after clean winner.
Pacific Coast Conference champion has been a powerhouse in junior college tennis for decades, having won 11 state titles, including four in 12 years under current coach .
"When you reach this point, it's often less about the tennis and more about fight, staying out there longer, who's eaten better and who's had the most rest," Haber said. "Santa Monica is really strong and based on what we saw in Ojai I definitely think they're the favorite to win state."
No one was happier to see Rodriguez rally to win than her teammate on the next court over, Corsairs No. 1 player . She was in the midst of an exhausting struggle with Jazmin Ortiz in a rematch of their quarterfinal meeting in Ojai when Mozolyuk prevailed, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
This time, Ortiz broke serve to open the match and went on to win the first set, 7-5. Mozolyuk broke to open the second set, which was back on serve at 4-4 when play was stopped because SMC had earned the five points necessary to clinch.
"Winning [Ojai] took a lot out of me," Mozolyuk admitted. "Today, I was trying not to overdo anything. I'm tired and there are a lot of matches coming up."
Mozolyuk will be the No. 1 seed in the individuals while Hansard and Rodriguez are likely to be seeded No. 1 in the doubles draw. The top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams from each conference are invited and the quarterfinalists in each draw will advance to the state finals.
The primary goal for the champions, however, is to win their first dual team state championship. The Corsairs will face the winner in the finals next Thursday, May 12, at in Fresno.
Dual scoring is a best-of-nine format, with six singles and three doubles matches each worth one point. The first team to five points wins.
"This match proved that we're match tough, we win three-setters," Goldenson said. "Maybe not as much for the players, but I it's a big deal not having to play the doubles. I would've been wiped out mentally. We'll see how it goes up there [in the finals] but I think we're deeper and stronger than the other teams."
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REGIONAL FINALS
Wednesday, May 4 @ Reed Park
Santa Monica College 5, Grossmont College 0
1. Jazmin Ortiz, GC, led Katerina Mozolyuk, 7-5, 4-4 (stopped)
2. Criss Rodriguez, SMC, d. Sharon Reibstein, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3
3. Krystal Hansard, SMC, d. Margaux Lawton, 6-1, 6-1
4. Jutta Collet, SMC, d. Alexis Ronney, 6-0, 6-0
5. Gwendolyn Kauffmann, SMC, d. Jami Thomas, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1
6. Hanna Sacher, SMC, d. Lupita Sandoval, 6-1, 6-3
Records: Grossmont 16-4; Santa Monica 17-1