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Troy, Villa Park Add Life to Ho-Hum Playoffs

November 14, 2000|DAVE McKIBBEN

As expected, the first two rounds of the new, enrollment-based Southern Section girls' tennis playoffs were a big yawn for most of the county's top-ranked teams. The only schools who had matches closer than 14-4 were sixth-ranked Los Alamitos and seventh-ranked Canyon, and they were upset victims.

Top-ranked Corona del Mar and fourth-ranked Woodbridge didn't lose a game in advancing to the quarterfinals of Division V and Division II. Third-ranked Troy, fifth-ranked Mater Dei and eighth-ranked Newport Harbor lost only one combined game in six victories.

But beginning with today's quarterfinals, things should start to get interesting. The most interesting? That's easy. Tenth-ranked Villa Park at third-ranked Troy in Division II.

Troy won the team's first meeting, 11-7, but that was two months ago, when Villa Park's lineup was unsettled and banged up. The rematch figures to be closer and both coaches essentially confirmed that by avoiding questions about their strategies.

"What it comes down to is No. 2 singles and No. 3 doubles," was all Troy Coach Donna Judd had to say about whether she would shake up her lineup.

Villa Park Coach Sherry Smith was just as guarded, but she wasn't afraid to play up her team's underdog role.

"There's no question the pressure's on them," Smith said. "They're the No. 2 seed . . . We've got nothing to lose."

The Spartans have played lately with that same carefree attitude. After starting the season with four losses in six games, Villa Park has won 11 of its last 13, including a victory over seventh-ranked Canyon.

The key to Villa Park's surge has been sophomore Arti Iyer, who has battled elbow tendinitis the last two seasons. Last year, it prevented her from playing. This year, Iyer has only missed two matches.

"She's tried acupuncture, she's tried everything," Smith said. "She's trying to play through it and rest it when the season's over."

Iyer moved to doubles and teamed with No. 3 singles player Laura Robinson in Villa Park's victory over Canyon. If Iyer isn't close to 100%, she might play doubles again today.

If Troy's doubles teams play exceptionally well, it might not matter where Iyer plays. Stacy Lee and Veronica Fermin are 38-4 at No. 1 doubles and Karen Eitan and Michelle Dinh are 31-6 at No. 2. Sophomore Serena Fermin (31-7) and junior Aya Sakoda (34-8) helped Troy get four singles points against Villa Park the first time.

"If we can do that again, it should be enough," Judd said.


An optimistic Lindsey Nelson has made travel arrangements to return a day early from the Fed Cup in Las Vegas next week. Nelson, Villa Park's star freshman, was invited to Las Vegas for clinics and workouts Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, she is scheduled to attend the first round of the Fed Cup, provided Villa Park is not playing in the Division II title match.

"Lindsey is a such a team player," Smith said. 'A lot of kids wouldn't have done that."

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