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Garden Grove Bumped by Top-Seeded Westlake


GARDEN GROVE — It had become apparent before the playoff started that the Westlake Village Westlake boys were no ordinary tennis team and their leader was no average Joe.

But with No. 1 singles player Darren Joe leading the way in the Warriors' 11-7 victory over Garden Grove in the Southern Section Division III semifinals, Westlake is one victory away from becoming the best team in school history.

The top-seeded Warriors (22-0) will face North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake Wednesday at a neutral site for a chance to win the first section title in the school's 19-year history.

Joe swept three sets at No. 1 singles, and the Warriors clinched the match by winning seven of nine points in singles against the fourth-seeded Argonauts (22-4).

There were three key matchups that swung the contest in Westlake's favor, and Joe was part of two of them.

First, he overwhelmed Garden Grove's No. 1 Danny Bui, winning, 6-0, in machine-like fashion. And with the Warriors' No. 1 doubles team of Joey Schimmel and Mike Horak beating Alex Iha and Huy Le, 6-3, one court over, Westlake took charge early.

The second crucial victory for the Warriors came when freshman Alex Yaftali upset Andro Ignacio in a match of No. 2s. Ignacio, a senior, entered the contest with a 181-26 career record and was clearly the Argonauts' best player.

Yaftali was losing, 6-5, when he broke Ignacio's serve to force a tiebreaker, which Yaftali won, 7-5.

Yaftali's victory gave Westlake a 5-1 lead after the first round.

Then came the third key battle: Joe vs. Ignacio.

Leading, 5-3, Joe had a chance to serve out the set. He couldn't. Ignacio, with a return winner, broke back to make it 5-4.

Ignacio, attempting to serve his way back into the set, pulled to 30-30 in the final game after Joe played a bad second serve and lost the point. But Joe was spurred by his mistake, and he won the last three points to win, 6-4.

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