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Top-Seeded Mater Dei Rolls


Mater Dei won its first Southern Section girls' tennis title Monday, easily defeating Santa Maria Righetti, 15-3, in the Division II final at the Claremont Club.

The top-seeded Monarchs (20-3) had no problem handling second-seeded Righetti (21-3), jumping out to an 11-1 lead after the second round.

"This was our basic goal," said senior Elena Klau. "This is what we wanted after four years of hard work and training. We set our goal and we were able to achieve it."

The Monarchs, who were blasted by Dana Hills in last year's final, 14-4, regained their composure this year and were out to prove a point under new Coach Don Clark.

"They lacked a little confidence at the beginning of the year," said Clark. "I heard they were pretty down after last year, but we just got back to the basics and worked on the little things and they came back this year really strong."

The Monarchs' only three losses this season were to the top-three teams in Division I, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Woodbridge and Corona del Mar. They defeated Dana Hills twice, going undefeated in the South Coast League.

"Last year was definitely on our minds," Klau said. "But we had two wins against Dana Hills, so we knew this was going to be our year."

Klau and partner junior Erin Herrel led the Monarchs to a sweep in doubles.

Klau and Herrel dropped only four games while winning, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. Junior Lauren Thomas and sophomore Jodi Nygaard won, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, and senior Terri Mansour and freshman Emily Boyd won, 6-1, 6-1, 7-5.

In singles, Mater Dei's Melissa Esmero, the top-ranked under 16 player in Southern California, had a tough battle in her first set of the day against senior Katie Fitzgerald. They battled to a 4-4 tie before Esmero broke Fitzgerald and then went on to win, 6-4. Esmero picked up three of her team's six points in singles by winning, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Mater Dei junior Mary Hung easily defeated sophomore Lauren Fitzgerald, 6-1, and freshman Melissa Bailey, 6-1, but struggled against Katie Fitzgerald, falling 6-2.

Freshman Casey Knutson finished 2-6, 2-6, 6-2 for the Monarchs.

"I inherited a very talented team," said Clark, in his first year of high school coaching. "This feels pretty good."

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