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High Schools | FALL PREVIEW: GIRLS' TENNIS

Division I Gets Stronger

September 10, 2002|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Corona del Mar and Calabasas highs have been powerful fixtures in Southern Section Division IV girls' tennis, with the Sea Kings winning the last two championships and the Coyotes claiming the 1999 title.

While Division IV was arguably as strong as any division in the section, league and playoff realignments will move both schools into the talent-laden Division I, where schools of large, medium and small enrollments will be pitted against one another.

"Wouldn't it be great if both of us ended up in the finals again, in Division I this time?" Calabasas Coach Bill Bellatty said. "That'd be something."

It could happen, because Corona del Mar and the Pacific Coast League schools, and Calabasas, which makes a jump to the Marmonte League, have been moved to Division I as the section forged divisional playoff groupings based on league strength instead of school enrollment.

The Coyotes' move to Division I will take place after another transition is completed. Calabasas, the Frontier League champion the last four years, will move into the highly competitive Marmonte League.

"It gives us more competition," Bellatty said. "I've wanted this for years. Nothing taken away from the other teams in the Frontier League, but we were pretty good."

Although Calabasas will be without Monica Wiesener, the No. 10-ranked player in Southern California in the girls' 18 division, the Coyotes still have four top-notch singles players and experienced doubles teams. Their arrival undoubtedly contributed to the Marmonte League's move to Division I after having members in Divisions II, III and IV under enrollment-based alignment.

It is a change not all Marmonte schools eagerly anticipate.

"When I heard about it, I was just very irritated, to say the least," said Coach Connie Flanderka of Westlake Village Westlake, which has won three consecutive Marmonte titles and 16 of the last 23. "We get hit with a double-whammy. We get Calabasas in the league and we get moved up to Division I."

Even though the Warriors have won four division titles in seven trips to the finals, Flanderka believes a team should be more than viable competition for others. She believes a team should have a realistic chance to advance to the later rounds--which she considers to be the semifinals and beyond--if it is to be grouped in a particular division.

"Division III was hard enough," Flanderka said. "It's supposedly competitively balanced, but I think they're going to find out that it's not."

The Warriors contributed to their league's power rating by advancing to the Division III semifinals last year. But they were beaten badly, 17-1, in that match by eventual-champion Beverly Hills. And despite past postseason success and a tradition of being a Ventura County tennis power, Westlake hasn't appeared in a division final since 1996, when the Warriors lost the Division III championship to Irvine Woodbridge, the runner-up in the division last season.

Division I has always been stocked with talented players and teams, although Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula has won four consecutive titles and 10 of the last 11. Bay League rival Beverly Hills will move into the division as well.

Last year's Division I runner-up, Dana Point Dana Hills of the South Coast League, remains in the division, while last season's Division II runner-up, Newport Harbor, moves up a division with the Sea View League. Century, Mission, Pacific Coast and Serra league members, traditionally in lower-enrollment divisions, now will compete at the highest level. Baseline League teams will join Upland in Division I as well.

"It's kind of new and exciting to us all," said Calabasas senior Erin Everly, expected to split time in the Coyotes' No. 1 spot with junior Celia Durkin, sophomore Amanda Fink and freshman Kristen McVitty. "I'm excited about it. Our school's kind of known as a good tennis school, and I'd like to keep that reputation."

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