When the encouraging cheer, “Let’s go, Poly” was directed from the stands to the tennis court Monday afternoon, it certainly applied to either team in the Moore League girls doubles finals. The team of Long Beach Poly juniors Mey Phy and Sara Soderberg were matched against freshman Ava Deguzma and sophomore Kate Johnson, who also wore the green and gold as Lady Jackrabbits.
Soderberg termed it a little strange but maintained, “We’re four good friends.’’
The friendly yet spirited and tight competition manifested itself in a thrilling match won by the team of Deguzma and Johnson, 6-3, 7-6. The second set was decided in a close 7-5 tiebreaker.
“It was a good match,’’ Soderberg said.
It was as unpredictable as the shots delivered by both teams in the second set, after Deguzma and Johnson won decisively in the first set. Each time in the second set when it appeared that Deguzma or Johnson had delivered an unreturnable shot, Phy or Soderberg returned with a winner at the net or a crosscourt shot that struck in, out of the reach of their opponent-teammates.
But there were not enough of those gems by Phy and Soderberg to prevail over their younger opponents. Deguzma, whose quickness enabled her to reach balls seemingly out of her range, was solid in the backcourt and Johnson put away several nifty winners at the net. Phy and Soderberg were the top-seeded doubles team going into the Moore League finals and as a tandem had not dropped a match this year.
“They were better at volleying than we thought they’d be,’’ Soderberg said. “Our volleys were messing up a lot. They had better communication than me and Mey, and Mey said she was tired.’’
The doubles victory was soothing for Johnson, who earlier battled teammate Deguzma for the Moore League singles championship. Deguzma prevailed in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0. Johnson, who had played number 1 for the Jackrabbits most of the season, lost her first singles match of the year.
“Her (shot) angles are so good,’’ Johnson said. “They’re so different. Some are short, some are deep. She makes you run a lot. It feels really inspiring playing her because she’s so good. Playing someone like her who is consistent helps my stroke.’’
Deguzma has been playing competitively for only four years but in the UTSA rankings she is among the top 60 nationally in 14s. She also plays in the 16s division. Deguzma said her goal is to play tennis in college. Poly coach Ricardo Montecinos believes that is an attainable goal.
“The amount of energy she displays on the court is something we haven’t seen at Poly in a long time,’’ he said.
The key to Deguzma’s victory was that she kept Johnson guessing all match long.
“I was working on being consistent, not hitting it in one spot but moving the ball around,’’ Deguzma said.
That she did, mixing deep lobs with sizzling ground strokes that whistled past Johnson, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right.
“It’s great having Ava here,’’ Montecinos said. “Kate needed someone to push her. As a coach you have mixed feelings because you want them both to win.’’
With the Moore League finals in the rear view mirror, Montencinos said the focus now is on the CIF playoffs. Poly finished the regular season with a perfect 19-0 record and is seeded third in the Division 3 playoffs and will have a home match Wednesday against either Pacifica or Trabuco Hills.