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Laguna Hills Takes Easy Route to Title

Mukhopadhyay just keeps the ball in play as Palm Desert's Raftu self destructs in final set.


Laguna Hills senior Ronjini Mukhopadhyay knows she didn't get any style points for her final-round victory over Tonia Raftu of Palm Desert, but she didn't seem to mind.

What mattered was that her 6-3 victory tied the set score at nine and gave Laguna Hills a 74-68 advantage in games and the Southern Section Division III championship.

The section title was the first in girls' tennis for third-seeded Laguna Hills (19-2), which had reached the semifinals the last two years. Mukhopadhyay's victory capped a Laguna Hills comeback from a 7-5 second-round deficit.

Jessica Prause's 6-3 victory in singles and convincing doubles wins by Megan Davies and Jamie Lautenschleger and Stephanie and Erina Hung gave Mukhopadhyay a chance to clinch the victory.

Mukhopadhyay wasn't doing much with the ball other than keeping it in play, but that was enough against Raftu, who was having trouble keeping a rein on her emotions.

"It wasn't real aggressive tennis," Mukhopadhyay said. "But it was the easiest way I knew to win. It was interesting. I knew there was no point in getting angry. Once she starting throwing her racket, I thought I had it."

Laguna Hills finished the regular season ranked eighth in the county. The Hawks reached the finals with a semifinal upset of second-seeded North Hollywood Harvard Westlake. Palm Desert (17-5), last year's Division III champion, advanced to the finals with a semifinal upset of top-seeded Westlake Village Westlake.

"We kind of came out of nowhere this year," Mukhopadhyay said. "I didn't think we'd win [the Pacific Coast] league. All this is totally surprising."

Laguna Hills Coach Linda Merritt wasn't expecting a section championship either, but she began to believe it could happen after the upset of Harvard Westlake.

"I knew it was going to be close today, but I told them there's no reason why they can't walk away with a victory," she said. "I think once they realized how far they had come, they thought, 'Why not just get first?' "

Prause, who had the stomach flu over the weekend and had to pull out of the section individuals, won two of her three sets at No. 1 singles. The Hung sisters and Davies and Lautenschleger also took two of three sets. Stephanie Hung is a senior. Her sister Erina is only 12 years old.

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