HUNTINGTON BEACH — Sunny Hills' Dave Robbins and Joseph Gilbert never backed down from Santa Barbara's top-seeded team of Nathan Jackmon and Jason Merrin in Saturday's Southern Section individual doubles finals.
But then, they never actually stepped up, either.
And that was about the only difference in Jackmon and Merrin's 7-5, 7-5 victory over Robbins and Gilbert at SeaCliff Tennis Club.
"They concentrated more on the games they needed," Robbins said.
To Gilbert's and Robbins' credit, Jackmon and Merrin have more experience playing big points. They have played together, off and on, almost four years and have never lost a set in tournament competition.
Gilbert and Robbins, who beat Carpinteria Cate's Jon Chang and Shep Smith in the semifinals, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, hadn't lost a match until Saturday. But then Gilbert, a freshman, and Robbins, a senior, have been together only three weeks.
But mostly, it was hard to tell who had more experience. Gilbert and Robbins maneuvered around the court as if they had been lifetime partners, handling Jackmon and Merrin's difficult serves without much problem.
"They played very well," said Merrin, who will play at Brown next year. "It's a lot easier to play the underdog role. You can play aggressively and go for more shots."
Gilbert and Robbins were going for the first set, but they lost two consecutive games after being tied, 5-5. Gilbert served to stay in the first set, but he was broken at love.
Gilbert and Robbins led, 5-3, in the second set but went on to lose the next four games.
Fortunately, Gilbert and Robbins will have a chance to end their season on a positive note. Sunny Hills plays host to North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake Wednesday in the Division II team finals.
"We'd like to get a championship trophy, not a runner-up," Gilbert said.
Corona del Mar's Jed Weinstein and Beat Baudenbacher, who lost in the semifinals to Merrin and Jackmon, 6-0, 6-1, were satisfied with their showing.
"That team is great," Weinstein said. "They didn't have any weaknesses. But I'm happy. I didn't even expect to get this far."
Ocean View's Jakub Pietrowski might have surprised himself a bit by reaching the singles semifinals as a junior. But he played as if he belonged there.
Pietrowski, who's best previous showing was the Round of 32 last year, lost a 2 1/2-hour baseline duel to third-seeded Loren Peters of Palos Verdes Peninsula, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
"Both of us have so much respect for each other's passing shots to come up to the net much," Pietrowski said. "You have to pick and chose when to come to the net."
Pietrowski led the third set, 3-1, and had three break points in the fifth game. But his backhand began to let him down and Peters' forehand stopped spraying wild shots and started producing winners.
Peters won 13 of the next 14 points to take a 4-3 lead.
And when Peters' forehand started clicking, Pietrowski saw less and less of Peters' vulnerable backhand.
"I tried to stay away from his forehand, but the space for his backhand got smaller and smaller," Pietrowski said. "He started running around the backhand."
Peters tried to pick up the pace of the match as he threw balls at Pietrowski's feet, hoping Pietrowski would rush back onto the court instead of taking his allotted time during breaks.
"I tried to stay within myself," Pietrowski said. "When someone starts rolling like that, I like to slow it down."
Pietrowski slowed Peters briefly as he held serve to tie the third set, 4-4. But Peters, who will play at UCLA next year, won the next two games to end the match.