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Woodbridge Fells One More Giant

Southern Section: Exon's come-from-behind victory caps Warriors' successful playoff run, in a 10-8 decision over Palos Verdes Peninsula.


ROLLING HILLS ESTATES — Sophomore Chase Exon finished off Woodbridge's improbable run through the Southern Section Division I boys' tennis playoffs with a second-serve ace that gave Exon a tiebreaker victory and his team a 10-8 victory over Palos Verdes Peninsula Wednesday at the Jack Kramer Club.

Fifth-seeded Woodbridge (20-4) lost to Peninsula, 16-2, during the season but defeated fourth-seeded Beverly Hills, 84-75, on games, in the quarterfinals after trailing, 8-4. Then they stunned top-seeded and eight-time defending champion Santa Barbara, also on games (82-81), in the semifinals.

Woodbridge (20-4), which became the first Orange County team since University in 1987 to win a Division I boys' tennis title, never trailed second-seeded Peninsula in sets but the Warriors were behind in games throughout. Though they led, 9-8, with Exon's match against Tim Marsh entering a tiebreaker, the Warriors could not afford another loss because a 9-9 tie meant Peninsula would win the match on games.

Exon trailed, 6-5, before breaking Marsh's serve and forcing a tiebreaker. Marsh took a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker despite severe cramping in his left leg. Though Marsh was barely able to move and unable to put anything on his serve, Exon began over-hitting everything as he tried to move Marsh around the court.

With about 150 fans and players surrounding the court, Woodbridge Coach Joan Willett could no longer take the suspense.

"I went over to the bench as far away from the court as I could and still watch," she said. "My stomach felt like Magic Mountain."

But Exon settled down to take the next four points and give himself two set points. Marsh saved three set points before Exon hit a rocket down the middle to win the tiebreaker, 9-7. Exon, who also clinched the Santa Barbara match with a 6-4 victory, soon found himself in the Kramer Club's pool with the rest of his teammates.

Marsh, who lost all three of his sets, immediately collapsed on the court and did not get up for 10 minutes.

"Chase is a great player," Marsh said. "He's got a cannon of a forehand. He deserved to win the match. He played great on the key points."

Exon was given a chance to win the match because of big-time performances from No. 2 singles player Adam Artunian, who swept three sets, and the doubles team of Brandon Shainfeld and Greg Levy, who swept three sets despite trailing 4-0 in their first set and 5-1, 40-0 in their second set. Exon also swept his three sets.

In Woodbridge's earlier loss to Peninsula, Levy and Shainfeld were swept and Exon was defaulted in his last two sets by Willett after losing his temper in the first round. Marsh figured Wednesday's score would be closer than 16-2.

"I knew they were for real after beating Santa Barbara," Marsh said.

But entering the season, Exon said he didn't know what to think of his team. Jon Biorkman, who played No. 2 singles last year, transferred to University along with his brother, doubles player Rick Kaplan transferred to Los Alamitos and freshman David Lingman, one of the nation's top-ranked 14-and-under junior players, was hurt.

"I thought it would be one tough struggling year," Exon said. "I thought, 'Maybe next year.' "

Said Willett: "Let's face it, we were the wounded Warriors. The attrition rate got pretty high at the beginning of the season."

During the year, Woodbridge suffered embarrassing losses to Peninsula and University and were swept by Sea View League rival Corona del Mar. But Lingman, who was suffering from a bacterial infection in his back, came back for the playoffs and No. 3 singles player Reza Farokhpay began pulling upsets over nationally ranked players.

After upsetting Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara, Woodbridge was prime for a letdown against Peninsula.

"We're cocky, so beating Santa Barbara helped us," Exon said.

Woodbridge's other set came from the No. 2 doubles team of Lingman and Brent de Saxe, who won their first set, 6-3, over Kyle Rasmussen and Maurice Yu, quarterfinalists in the section individuals last weekend.

Winning six singles sets and four doubles sets gave Woodbridge its first section title since 1989 when it won the 3-A title.

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