Jack Hodges, the Laguna Hills High School tennis coach, had trouble recognizing his team in the Southern Section 3-A girls' final, and he knew the reason.
"That wasn't the same team we've seen over the previous 22 matches," Hodges said. "I think a lot of that was caused by our opponents."
Laguna Hills' opponent was San Marino--winner of 72 consecutive matches, 2 straight 3-A titles and 4 of the last 5.
Nothing changed Wednesday except the numbers.
San Marino dominated doubles play and held its own in singles for a 13-5 victory at the Nellie Gail Tennis Club in Laguna Hills.
The match originally had been scheduled for Tuesday at the Claremont Tennis Club, but it was postponed because of rain after just one set.
"We were really ready to play yesterday (Tuesday)," said Maureen Bryant, San Marino coach. "I was a little worried that we may have lost some intensity because of being rained out yesterday and the long bus ride today."
Bryant needn't have been concerned, as the Titans swept their first three doubles sets and got strong play from Roxy Protasovicki in singles.
Hodges said before the match that San Marino (25-0) was stronger than the Hawks in doubles. He had hoped that Laguna Hills (22-1) could make up the difference in singles play.
He hadn't figured, however, on Protasovicki, San Marino's No. 2 singles player, sweeping her sets. But, then, neither did Protasovicki's coach.
"I thought Roxy could get one (set), but I wasn't sure," Bryant said. "Her winning two was really wishing."
Instead, Protasovicki won three, somewhat with ease.
She routed Kim Wright, 6-0, and Brook Fleming, 6-2, in the first two rounds. She then held off Jenny Marques, the Hawks' No. 1 singles player, for a 6-3 victory.
Her win over Marques gave San Marino a 10-4 lead that clinched the title.
"It was fitting that Roxy get the winning point," Bryant said. "She's been hot and cold all year, but today she really came through."
The Titans were weakened in singles after Biljana Korac was suspended for disciplinary reasons before the playoffs. Besides being the team's No. 1 player, Korac is ranked 13th in Southern California among 16-year-olds.
Protasovicki and Sulin Kong, who won two singles matches, filled the void Wednesday.
"Protasovicki has been a good point scorer for them all year, but we thought we could beat her at the net," Hodges said. "She was just like a magnet with the racket today."
The Hawks were unable to make up their singles losses in doubles, losing 8 of 9 sets.
Katrina Heppler and Mai Nguyen, Laguna Hills' No. 1 doubles team, kept pace with the Titans' No. 1 team of Caryn Cranston and Amy Okum. Trailing, 3-4, Heppler and Nguyen held a 40-love lead in the eighth game but could not close it out. Cranston and Okum won, 6-3.
Marques kept the Hawks close, winning two of three singles sets. Wright and Fleming each won one.
Heppler and Nguyen had the Hawks' only doubles victory, but they had to go to a tiebreaker to beat Kelly Ching and Marianne Harwell, the Titans' No. 3 team. That win cut the San Marino lead to 8-4, but the Hawks could get no closer.
"We just weren't up to par today," Hodges said. "We played well all year and just ran into a very good team in the finals."