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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Saedinia Aims to Help Calabasas Win First Section Title

September 15, 1998|LAUREN PETERSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As one of the top junior singles players in the region, Calabasas High's Shervin Saedinia has won many individual tennis titles.

Now her focus is on a team title that she hasn't won.

"There's more of a determination to win CIF this year," said Saedinia, the Coyotes' No. 1 player.

It will take teamwork--along with some yeoman work by Saedinia--for Calabasas to win the Southern Section Division IV championship, a long-sought title that has eluded the Coyotes.

"It's very frustrating," Saedinia said. "Now that I'm a senior, I really want to win it, and I think we can do it."

Saedinia, 5 feet 7 1/2 and 130 pounds, has a powerful forehand, an effective top-spin backhand and a No. 12 rating in the U.S. Tennis Assn.'s girls' 18 rankings.

Despite their star player's best efforts, however, the Coyotes have been eliminated in the playoff semifinals the last three seasons. They lost last year to Chaminade, 10-8, the eventual Division IV champion.

But a few factors give the Coyotes more than a passing shot at the title this season.

"Shervin, for one thing," said Vanessa Everly, Calabasas' No. 2 player. "She's really good. It gives us three games almost every time. We kind of expect it. We're like, 'OK, there's three for Shervin.' "

Calabasas returns eight of its top nine players from a 19-4 team.

The Coyotes competed as a freelance team before joining the Frontier League this season. They are considered a heavy favorite to win the league title.

Saedinia has faced little competition from her high school opponents, posting a 62-1 record in regular-season singles sets last season. She lost only once in match play, in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section individual tournament.

As a sophomore in 1996, Saedinia was 59-1 in singles sets and advanced to the final of the section doubles tournament with partner Debra Pepkowitz.

"It's not as competitive as top-level tournaments, but I just like it," Saedinia said of the high school season. "I love the spirit. You're playing for a team, you're playing for a purpose. So even though some matches are a waste of time, you feel good that you're playing for the team."

Calabasas is glad to have Saedinia on its side.

"I don't know of anybody in this area that can beat her," Calabasas Coach Bill Bellatty said. "Hardly anyone did last year, and she's a lot stronger now."

Saedinia won the Dudley Cup in Santa Monica in March, followed by tournament championships in Cerritos and Downey in May, and in Studio City in June. She was runner-up in the girls' 18-and-under division at the Ojai Valley tournament in April, losing to Bernadette Bayani of Simi Valley in the final.

Saedinia also reached the final of the Southern California Mid-Winter tournament in Santa Barbara in January before falling to Tiffany Brymer of San Diego. She lost in the round of 64 in the U.S. national clay-court and hard-court championships this summer.

Saedinia's main competitors in the region are Bayani and Glendale's Maureen Diaz, who has beaten Saedinia twice this year.

"Shervin's not the best player around, but she's close," said Bob Atkins, Saedinia's private coach since she took up the sport four years ago, days before her 13th birthday. "She's definitely one of the quality players out there."

Saedinia, who will turn 17 in November, has played in USTA-sanctioned tournaments for 2 1/2 years, steadily improving her Southern California junior ranking.

The improvement came rapidly after Atkins retooled Saedinia's racquet-handling mechanics and footwork, changed her two-handed backhand to a one-handed shot, fine-tuned her forehand and emphasized her superior serve.

"Her game is really coming along," Atkins said. "She's done a lot and she's come a long way. Compared to where she was in her first year of 16s, it's another world."

Now, Saedinia hopes to carry Calabasas to another level.

"Everyone wants to win CIF, and I think if we all chip in and do our part, we could do it," she said. "We're going to have our time now."

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