Grokenberger and McKeown win all-SB final

It was Dons against Dons Thursday at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club, as Hanna Grokenberger and Kinzie McKeown repeated as Channel League doubles champions with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Haley Hranicky-Galitzer and Ari Beckerman.

The all-Santa Barbara final was a strong possibility heading into the day, as three Dons teams and one duo from Dos Pueblos — Amy Sagraves and Amy Logan — were the only teams remaining, but the teammates-on-teammates match still provided an interesting atmosphere.

“We both wanted to win it, but we play each other all the time in practice and it’s kind of hard to get the energy and intensity up,” said Grokenberger. “And the fans can’t really cheer strongly one way or the other.”

Coach Steve Geremia — who was in a similar spot when two SBHS teams squared off in the 2006 final — was also in an odd position and was notably absent from courtside during the match.

He chose to stand quietly in an inconspicuous location amongst the bushes.

“It’s difficult to watch them, because you don’t want any of them to think that you’re partial to one team,” he said. “I generally stand in the weeds.”

Grokenberger and McKeown jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, but Hranicky-Galitzer and Beckerman rattled off four straight games to take the lead at 5-4. The eventual champs surged back, however, and McKeown served out a perfect final game to take the set.

Hranicky-Galitzer-Beckerman made another valiant comeback in the sixth game of the second set, climbing out of a 15-40 hole to win it and keep things even at 3-3, but two games later McKeown used a terrific backhand volley to win the eighth game and make it 5-3. She then finished things off with another strong game serving.

Grokenberger hurt her ankle on the morning of the Dons’ first CIF match last season, so she has one primary goal heading into this postseason.

“No injuries,” she said with a smile.

Geremia thinks the duo is capable of doing much more than staying healthy. But with a stellar field of opponents ahead — comprised of regular doubles teams as well as makeshift tandems composed of top singles players — the road to the title will be very tough.

“There are a lot of high-ranked singles in there, but if it was just doubles teams I’m very confident we’d win it all,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Sagraves and Logan were defeated by the eventual champs 6-2, 6-1, while the runner-up duo defeated Dons seniors April Ludwick and Zoe Miller 6-3, 6-1. Miller and Ludwick have been the Dons’ top doubles team in many matches this season, most notably going undefeated in a key victory over Beverly Hills that launched Santa Barbara into the No. 1 spot in CIF.

“Today’s match didn’t go the way they wanted, but confidence is not an issue with them. They are an excellent and experienced team,” said Geremia.

The Dons will be in action at home on Thursday.