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Monarchs, Sailors Find Their Way Back

Girls' tennis: Finalists a year ago but overlooked because of losses to graduation, Mater Dei and Newport Harbor meet today in a Division III semifinal.


Mater Dei and Newport Harbor, two schools that played in a Southern Section girls' tennis final last year but weren't supposed to be close to one this season, meet today in the Division III semifinals at Newport Harbor.

Mater Dei, which won the Division II title last year over Troy, graduated its top three players, Melissa Esmero, Mary Hung and Erin Herrell.

Newport Harbor, which lost to Palos Verdes Peninsula in the Division I final, lost its top three players, Natalie Braverman, Audra Adams and Kristen Case. Case and Adams graduated and Braverman opted not to play.

Mater Dei, led by first-year Coach Richard Berman, is 16-3 with losses to Corona del Mar, Woodbridge and Peninsula. If the Monarchs win, they will be playing in their fourth section final in a row. Senior Jodi Nygaard, who has played in the first three title matches, has lost just two sets all season while rotating between singles and doubles.

Freshmen Carolina Velasco and Michelle Van Oppen have helped fill the void left by Esmero and Hung in singles.

"I promised my principal we would carry on the tradition and get to the finals, but realistically I thought we'd be lucky to reach the quarterfinals," said Berman, who coached the Newport Harbor boys' the last two seasons.

Newport Harbor (16-6) has reached the semifinals six consecutive years. The Sailors have been to the finals twice, losing both times to Peninsula. The winner of today's match will play Palm Desert or Santa Barbara Monday at the Claremont Club.

In the Division I semifinals, Capistrano Valley will host top-seeded Peninsula and second-seeded Dana Hills travels to Upland. In Division II, third-seeded Woodbridge is at second-seeded Troy and fourth-seeded University will host top-seeded Beverly Hills.

In Division IV, top-seeded Corona del Mar is at West Hills Chaminade. In Division V, top-seeded Laguna Beach hosts fourth-seeded Brentwood. All matches are scheduled for 2 p.m.

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