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PREP TENNIS AT OJAI : Leach Rallies to Reach Semifinals


OJAI — Rare are the moments that Jon Leach finds his skills failing him. Normally, he makes the most difficult shots on a tennis court seem routine.

Rarer still are the times that Leach finds himself in dire straits, particularly when he's playing at the Ojai Valley tennis tournament.

After all, Leach, a junior at Laguna Beach High School, has won three consecutive titles at Ojai.

In his quarterfinal match in the boys' CIF singles against David Smith of La Jolla, Leach trailed, 4-1, after winning the first set, 6-2.

At that point, Leach said he was resigned to playing a third set for the second time Friday.

It didn't happen. Leach overcame a brief lapse and won a 6-2, 6-4 victory and a berth in today's semifinals. He will face Ari Nathan of Brentwood at 9:30 a.m.

Leach's volleys, which usually land with pinpoint accuracy, were darting off in all directions.

After one misplaced volley, he groused, "Why do you miss so many volleys when you always make them?"

Later, he said, "I'm not used to missing that many volleys."

Leach regrouped behind a strong serve and improved volleys. And when Smith netted a volley, Leach led, 5-4, and was serving for the match.

He won with a booming serve on match point that Smith could only stare at as it went by.

Leach, who wore a Laguna Beach baseball cap to fight off the noonday sun, said the temperature, which hovered in the high 80s, did not bother him. Nor did an earlier, three-set match against Jose Mediano of The Bishop's School in San Diego.

Mediano won the first set, but Leach stormed back to win, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

"I'm in shape to play five, maybe six good sets of tennis," Leach said.

Brett Hansen-Dent, a Newport Harbor senior, found his serve consistency wanting in the second set of his quarterfinal match with Heath Montgomery of Santa Barbara.

But Montgomery's serve was just as shaky.

"(Montgomery) was serving really big in the first set," said Hansen-Dent, who has signed a letter of intent to attend UC Irvine in the fall. "But in the second, there were four (service) breaks in a row."

It didn't seem to faze Hansen-Dent, who went on to a 7-6, 6-4 victory and his first berth in the semifinals at Ojai.

He will face Kevin Smith of Strathmore, who defeated Willie Dann of University, today at 9:30 a.m.

Smith dropped the first set, 4-6, but roared back to the win the next two, 6-1, 6-3.

Ojai Notes

The CIF final is scheduled for 2 p.m. today. . . . Ari Nathan, Jon Leach's semifinal opponent, defeated Ignacio Martinex of St. Augustine, Fla., 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. Leach and Nathan last met two years ago. "It's been a battle every time we've played," Leach said. "I expect it to be tight." In the boys' 16, Adam Peterson of Mater Dei and David Roditi of San Clemente advanced to today's semifinals. Page Bartelt of Capistrano Valley advanced to the semifinals of the girls' 16s.

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