Maggie Mello, who missed the Southern Section individual tournament last season because of an injury, made the most of a chance to play in this year's event.
The third-seeded sophomore from Mission Viejo rallied from a first-set deficit and then staved off a comeback attempt by top-seeded senior Nazlie Ghazal of Temecula Chaparral to claim the Southern Section singles championship with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory in the final match Friday at SeaCliff Country Club in Huntington Beach.
"I really wanted this," said Mello. "It was my match. I feel like I was supposed to be here."
Mello's title, the first by a Mission Viejo player, completed her successful comeback from a torn ligament in her right ankle that forced her to miss most of last year, including all of the postseason.
"This was the goal," Diablo Coach Brent Pillsbury said. "This year, she wanted to make sure she made a good go of it."
Mello was down a break at 1-4 in the first set before rebounding to win with the help of some effective serving and a powerful, picturesque forehand. She also had a match point at 5-4 in the second set but made three consecutive unforced errors to allow Ghazal to pull into a tie and then to win the last two games to force a third set.
Mello won the first four games and had a 5-1 lead in the third, but again had to hold off Ghazal, a left-hander who will play at Northwestern next year.
North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake seniors Amber Harper and Jennifer Kaswick completed a near-perfect season by winning an all-Mission League doubles final, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's Erynne and Aimee Oki.
Harper and Kaswick, who went 54-2 in sets this year, overcame some poor serving to claim the title after taking a 4-1 advantage in the third-set tiebreaker and then hanging on after the Notre Dame sisters tied it at 4-4.