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Sunny Hills Gets Help From Sidelines to Win


Three Southern Section Division II boys' tennis titles in the 1990s have given Sunny Hills the reputation of being a tennis school. But even with all their success, the Lancers have never enjoyed a home-court advantage. Funerals are often more lively than Lancer tennis crowds.

But all that changed Thursday at Sunny Hills Racquet Club in Fullerton. A raucous crowd of about 30 students, teachers and parents helped top-seeded Sunny Hills to a 10-8 victory over Santa Barbara and a fifth trip to the Division II final in the last seven years.

The match turned on a back-and-forth doubles set in the second round that was eventually won by the Lancers' No. 3 team of Shail Vyas and Jimmy Chu, 7-5, over Santa Barbara's Ryan Laponis and John MacManigal. With the set tied at 5-5, the crowd got louder with each point Vyas and Chu won.

Vyas and Chu's victory gave Sunny Hills a 7-5 lead and some breathing room entering the third round. Vyas and Chu clinched the match with a 6-2 victory over Santa Barbara's Kerry Devilbiss and Bret Defnet.

"Because of the support, we were able to step up and take our games to the next level [in the second round]," Vyas said. "The crowd gave us a mental lift. They gave us something to fight for."

Sam Adam Webster, Santa Barbara's No. 1 singles player who won three sets, admitted Sunny Hills' rowdy crowd made a difference.

"We were the better team in the deciding doubles match but [Vyas and Chu] exceeded their level of play and hit some great shots," he said. "Their crowd had a lot to do with that. The NCAAs are the only place where I've seen this type of thing."

Sunny Hills Coach Steve White said his players remembered how effective a loud crowd could be when they lost at San Marino in the Division II final last year.

"This is what team tennis is all about," White said. "Our kids didn't forget what happened in San Marino. This time we had the fan support and they were great fans today."

Vyas and Chu's two points at No. 3 doubles offset the two losses by the Lancers' No. 1 team of John Choi and Tuji Chang.

Sunny Hills also got two points from Chung and Joseph Kao at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and two from Raj Vyas and Davin Lin at No. 2 doubles.

Webster said the better team won the match.

"I thought our guys played with a lot of heart, but they were too tough," he said. "At the beginning of the year, I never thought we'd make it past the second round. I'm happy we got this far."

Sunny Hills (17-3) will play Santa Margarita in the final Wednesday at an alternate site. Santa Barbara, in its first season of competing in Division II after winning 10 of the last 11 Division I titles, finished 17-8.

In another Division II match:

Santa Margarita 12, Beverly Hills 6--Andrew Tsu swept in singles, 6-0, 6-4, 6-2, for second-seeded Santa Margarita (21-3), which defeated third-seeded Beverly Hills in the quarterfinals.

Dan Deen and Jason Walsh swept in doubles, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, for the Eagles.

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