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TENNIS : Bell, South Gate Fall to Experience in Ojai Doubles Matches


Jose Cardenas and Luis Hernandez of the Bell High tennis team could not help feeling as if they had butterflies in their stomachs Thursday. Not only were they playing in their first tennis tournament, it was at the prestigious 94th annual Ojai Valley competition.

And not only were they competing against a superior Beverly Hills team, they were pressured by playing in the same tournament that has seen the likes of Bill Tilden, Billie Jean King and Jimmy Connors.

So it came as no surprise that Cardenas and Hernandez, both juniors in their second season of competitive play, fell, 6-3, 6-2, to the more seasoned partnership of P.J. Gopaocco and Mark Miller of Beverly Hills in the first round of the boys' interscholastic doubles competition.

The greater experience of Gopaocco and Miller quickly became the deciding factor. Cardenas and Hernandez, who had only practiced twice as a team in preparation for doubles play, recovered from a 40-0 deficit to knot the score at 1-1 and had some chances early on to break their opponents' serve, but the Beverly Hills duo could not be outmatched.

Lazaro Gutierrez of South Gate knew better than Cardenas or Hernandez what to expect Thursday when he teamed with Jesse Zaldivar in a doubles match against Diamond Bar. Gutierrez lost last year in the first round of interscholastic singles, but that lesson could not prevent a 6-1, 6-2 loss to the hard-hitting team of Frank Mikel and Randy Tan.

"It's a lot tougher in singles," Gutierrez said. "I played a guy who was ranked No. 3 (in Southern California) last year. Now he's at USC."

Mikel and Tan proved too steady for Gutierrez and Zaldivar, taking advantage of seven double faults in the first set to break serve three times and wearing down the South Gate squad for two more service breaks in the second set.

"When we got them into rallies, we won most of the points," Zaldivar said. "But we let them finish off too many points quickly."

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