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Breakers breaking the mold

TENNIS: Surging Laguna boys ease past No. 2-seeded Cate and into first CIF final since 1983.

May 29, 2009|By Matt Szabo

LAGUNA BEACH — With every serve, every forehand winner that left the crowd yelling in support, it became clear Tuesday afternoon that the Laguna Beach High boys’ tennis team would not be denied.

Technically it was an upset, the sixth-seeded Breakers’ 13-5 pasting of No. 2-seeded Cate in the CIF Southern Section Division IV semifinals. But with how hot Laguna Beach has become, it was hardly unexpected.

The Breakers are headed to the CIF finals for the first time since 1983, when tennis legend and nine-time Grand Slam doubles winner Rick Leach ruled the courts at Laguna Beach High. Their opponent at 3 p.m. Wednesday at The Claremont Club will be top-seeded Cerritos, which defeated Sage Hill on games in another semifinal.

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“We’re playing our best tennis right now,” sophomore Jake Michaels said. “We’ve been working hard all season, every practice, just working hard. It’s really starting to show and it’s the perfect time.

“I was really stoked because Cate being the second seed, we were coming in as the underdog. I think we stepped up our game today even more than we have. The intensity was there, which was really good. We just keep it going, and I think that’s when we play our best tennis, when we have everybody pumping fists and giving it all they’ve got.”

Michaels, junior Chris Lavery and sophomore Benito Romeo, the Breakers’ three singles players, have been dominant in their run to the finals. For the second straight CIF playoff match, also including the Breakers’ quarterfinal upset of No. 3-seeded Whitney, Laguna Beach swept in singles against Cate.

Only one of the matches was even really close. In the last match on court, Romeo gutted out a 7-5 victory over Cate senior No. 1 player Max Sabel.

“The intensity was up, and he was definitely in a zone in that match for a while,” Romeo said. “I had to step it up. I had to somehow step my level up high enough ... We’re definitely putting a lot of heart into this.”

Yet, one of the most important wins occurred at No. 3 doubles in the first go-round. It was there that the Breakers’ Paul Salomon and Cameron Cornell won a 7-6 (7-2) decision that gave Laguna Beach a 4-2 lead.

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