Dons triumph in matchup of fire-affected teams

After two postponements caused by two devastating fires, Santa Barbara and Diamond Bar were finally able to meet in the CIF Division-II round of 16 on Tuesday, and the Dons girls tennis team cruised to a 15-3 victory to set up a quarterfinal match against Newport Harbor 24 hours later on Wednesday.

The match, originally scheduled for Saturday, was pushed to Monday as both coaches and several players from each team were evacuated from their homes over the weekend due to the Tea Fire in Santa Barbara and the Freeway Complex Fire near Diamond Bar. Because evacuation orders were not lifted until Monday in both areas, the match was further delayed to Tuesday to give everyone time to pick up the pieces.

“They’ve had a real tough time with the fire just like we did,” said Dons head coach Steve Geremia, who said he was very thankful that Wednesday’s quarterfinal would be played in Santa Barbara to give those affected more time to regroup.

In doubles play, Channel League champions Hanna Grokenberger and Kinzie McKeown have yet to drop a single game in the first two rounds of CIF, winning two sets on Tuesday at 6-love. As a team, the Dons didn’t relinquish a single set in doubles. April Ludwick and Zoe Miller swept three sets and Ari Beckerman-Haley Hranicky-Galitzer won two more. 

“We’re just having fun out there and that’s really helping our game out,” Grokenberger said of the success with McKeown.

In singles, Rachel Decker-Sadowski was the only Don to defeat the Brahmas’ No. 1 player Monika Kozan, and she did it 6-0. 

Freshman Aurora Garrison won two sets at love and Lizzy Langhorne got the Dons their final point in the longest match of the day, a set decided by a 9-7 tiebreaker.

“It gave us the chance to use a lot of different people,” said Geremia, who used Thalia-Ariana Hudson, Emily Baum-Taryn Mjelde and Langhorne in the third round. “Which we like to do because, you never know, it may help you this year or next year. Who knows? It may help you next week.”

No. 6 Mayfield, which beat San Marcos in the first round, and Palm Desert face off in the other quarterfinal in the Dons’ side of the bracket. In the opposite bracket, No. 3-seeded Dos Pueblos faces La Quinta Wednesday to decide who will most likely draw defending-champ Beverly Hills, which plays Chadwick, in the semifinals. 

“Tomorrow Newport Harbor is a league champion and they have one of the best players in California,” warned Geremia, who was talking about the Sailors’ Nelly Radeva. The match begins at 2 p.m.