Top-seeded Stella Sampras of Palos Verdes High School defeated Debbie Graham of Westminster La Quinta, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, Friday for the Southern Section girls' individual tennis championship at the Racquet Club of Irvine.
In doubles, Rancho Palos Verdes Miraleste's No. 1 team of Cristin Bailey and Tricia Simpson beat the No. 2 team of Debra Goldberger and Tanya Johnson of Huntington Beach Edison, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3.
After breezing through her earlier semifinal match against Bridgette Curameng of Cerritos, 6-1, 6-1, Graham, a junior, kept her momentum going through the first set against Sampras.
But a calm and steady Sampras came back in the second set.
"I knew then, after winning the first (game of the second set) my momentum was back," Sampras said. "And when she started to make errors, I knew to put on the pressure."
Sampras kept Graham running with cross-court shots and down-the-line winners. Then, with Sampras leading at 5-2 after two service breaks, the players started a battle for points from the base line.
The third set went much like the second, with both players adhering to their line strategies. After eight long-rally games, though, the score was tied 4-4.
Sampras placed two cross-court shots in a row out of Graham's reach. Then, on game point, Graham double-faulted, and Sampras led, 5-4.
After winning three quick points in a row, Sampras served at match point and Graham sliced the ball across the court just inches wide.
In doubles, Bailey and Simpson let first-set errors force them into a 6-6 tiebreaker with Goldberger and Johnson, but the Miraleste girls managed to win it at 8-6 for a 7-6 first-set victory.
Johnson provided most of the power for the Edison pair's 6-2 win in the second set, using a strong backhand volley.
But Bailey and Simpson came back in the third set, outwitting their opponents with effective placing and quick, rapid volleys.