The way Jack Hodges figures it, the Laguna Hills High School girls' tennis team has only one edge on San Marino, the Hawks' opponent in the 3-A team tennis final at 1:30 today at Claremont Tennis Club.
Hodges gives San Marino the advantage in talent and experience. And with good reason. The Titans are the two-time defending 3-A champions and have won four of the last five titles. They also have 69 straight victories.
"If we have an edge it's an element of surprise," Hodges said. "A lot of people have said our players aren't that well-known. Being relative unknowns--we don't have a lot of players (in the state junior rankings)--will surprise San Marino."
Laguna Hills' best playoff finish was last season's quarterfinal appearance. The Hawks lost to Claremont in 1986 and Hodges said the team's goal was "to go just a little farther."
The Hawks won the Pacific Coast League championship for the second straight year and have compiled a 22-0 record. Laguna Hills was third-seeded in the 3-A when the playoffs began. San Marino (21-0) was top-seeded.
Luck, Hodges said, hasn't hurt the Hawks' drive to the final. Laguna Hills sneaked past Agoura in last Thursday's semifinal. The match ended in a tie, 9-9, but Laguna Hills advanced on number of games won, 74-68.
The Hawks' doubles team of Katrina Heppler and Mai Nguyen were leading in the final set, 4-3, when play was stopped because of a darkness. The teams then drove to Westlake Tennis Club where the set was finished under the lights.
"I've never seen so much pressure," Hodges said. "We had to win the last two sets of the doubles to win. The pressure was unbelievable.
"Getting to this point has given us a lot of unexpected excitement."
Jenny Marques, Kim Wright and Brook Fleming are the Hawks' top singles players.
In the 2-A final, Valencia (16-4) will play Indio (16-6) at 10 a.m. also at Claremont Tennis Club.
The Tigers are led by Diane Ewing, their No. 1 singles player. Ewing is undefeated in playoff singles action and is the two-time Orange League singles champion. Valencia is seeded second.
Indio, which is the fourth-seeded team, has been to the 2-A final the past two years, winning in 1985 and losing to Chaminade last year.