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Warriors defeated in first round of tennis playoffs

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The CIF San Diego Section boys tennis team playoffs took place April 26-30 but, for Fallbrook High School, the post-season consisted of one match April 26 at Steele Canyon.

A 13-5 Steele Canyon victory eliminated the Warriors in the first round of the post-season tournament. “We just didn’t go out and play,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.

In 2013, the CIF San Diego Section transitioned from playoff divisions based on enrollment to playoff divisions based on competitive balance. The divisions had been set prior to the start of the season and still are for other sports.

The coronavirus shutdown eliminated the 2020 boys tennis playoffs, and the delay in the start of the 2020-21 seasons caused boys and girls tennis to be combined (girls tennis is normally a fall sport) with formal mixed doubles competition for the first time in CIF San Diego Section history.

The lack of any mixed program history caused the CIF to base the 2020-21 playoff divisions on the cumulative universal tennis rating data for each of a team's players. The teams with the eight highest UTR totals played in the Open Division playoffs; the next 16 teams were in Division I; the teams with the 24th to 40th UTR totals competed in the Division II post-season, and schools whose UTR ranked 41st through 56th along with any league champions who received automatic playoff berths were Division III participants.

Although girls tennis and boys tennis returned to separate seasons for 2021-22, the advantages of playoff divisions based on that season rather than on previous seasons (which wouldn’t take into account graduation losses, underclassmen who did not return, freshmen players, or season-ending injuries) led the tennis coaches to retain the UTR-based divisions for both boys and girls. Fallbrook received the 12th seed in the 2022 boys Division II playoffs and Steele Canyon was given the fifth seed.

Steele Canyon High School is off of State Route 94 between Spring Valley and Jamul. Noticeable wind occurred during the playoff match between Fallbrook and Steele Canyon. “Their courts face east-west instead of north-south like most courts,” Lenaway said. “I think they had a very significant home court advantage.”

Three of the Fallbrook wins were against Steele Canyon’s #3 doubles team. The Fallbrook duo of senior James Smith and freshman Connor Skaja won a 6-1 set, senior Daniel Winton and junior Joe Tygart prevailed by a 6-0 score, and senior Sam Grantham and sophomore Anthony Wilson also had a 6-0 win. Winton and Tygart added a 6-4 victory over the Cougars’ #2 doubles tandem. The only Fallbrook singles point was due to junior Porter Niccum defeating the Cougars’ #3 singles player.

If each player wins six games, a tiebreaking game to seven points determines the winner of the set. Niccum lost a tiebreaking game to Steele Canyon’s #1 singles player while the Cougars’ #2 doubles team defeated Grantham and Wilson in a tiebreaking game. Winton and Tygart lost a 6-4 set to Steele Canyon’s #1 doubles partners.

“We played hard. We did everything we could. They were just a little deeper than we were,” Lenaway said.

The loss gave Fallbrook a final overall season record of 10-7. The Warriors were 7-3 in Valley League play to share second in the league standings.


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