Village News Reporter
Fallbrook High School junior Angie Palmerin reached the third round of the CIF individual tennis tournament.
Palmerin won her first two matches before a third-round defeat. The tournament which began Oct. 31 and concluded Nov. 5 was played at the Balboa Tennis Club in San Diego.
“The CIF tournament was a great experience,” Palmerin said.
Each league sent five singles players and five doubles tandems to the CIF tournament. All players who reached the semifinals in the league tournament qualified and a backdraw with the quarterfinals losers determined the fifth-place singles and doubles players.
Palmerin reached the Valley League singles championship match before losing in the final to Fallbrook resident and Mission Hills High School sophomore Sofia Echeverria. Fallbrook seniors Sam Hanlon and Erin Rowan qualified for the doubles portion of the CIF tournament by winning their quarterfinals match, although Rowan’s illness forced the two to default their semifinals and third-place league matches.
The first two singles rounds of the CIF tournament took place Oct. 31. The top 16 singles seeds had byes for the first two rounds and began play Nov. 2. The first two doubles rounds were contested Nov. 1 with the top 16 seeds having two byes before beginning play Nov. 2.
Echeverria had a first-round match against High Tech High North County sophomore Amber Mau. “I was just really excited, but then I got hurt which made it a little complicated,” Echeverria said.
Late in the 6-1 first set Echeverria won, she injured her thigh. Mau prevailed in the second set by a 6-1 margin. If the first two sets are split, a tiebreaking game to 10 points is played. Mau won the 10-8 tiebreaker.
“I think I would have done really good if I hadn’t gotten hurt,” Echeverria said.
Echeverria did not play high school tennis as a freshman, so this was her first CIF tournament. “I think it was a good experience overall,” she said. “Next year hopefully I can play.”
Palmerin was the only Valley League singles player in the tournament to advance to the second round. She faced Alexandra Ham of Granite Hills in the first round and obtained a 6-1, 6-0 victory.
“The first round was pretty easy for me. I got my confidence up,” Palmerin said.
“That was a very good start to the day,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.
“She played the way she should have,” Lenaway said. “She didn’t play down. She played at her own level.”
La Jolla High School senior Cristina Alapi was Palmerin’s second-round opponent. Alapi defeated Palmerin in the 6-2 first set. Alapi took a 5-3 lead in the second set.
“I had to keep myself focused mentally,” Palmerin said.
“Still kept her head in the match. That shows,” Lenaway said.
Palmerin explained that the mental advantage would make the difference when what was the fourth set of the day for both players took its physical toll on the competitors. “We were both exhausted in the second set,” Palmerin said. “I took advantage of it and I won in that mental game.”
Palmerin won the ninth game of the second set to narrow the margin to 5-4. Palmerin then broke Alapi’s serve to create a 5-5 score for that set.
“My confidence just went up,” Palmerin said.
“She was very smart. She accepted coaching really well during the match and changed some things,” Lenaway said.
Alapi took a 6-5 lead, but Palmerin won the next game. That also involved breaking Alapi’s serve.
“It had so much spin on it and it was a beautiful serve,” Palmerin said of Alapi’s serving. “I had to adjust to her serve and move.”
Alapi is left-handed. Fallbrook had no left-handed players on the 2022 team. Palmerin had faced a handful of left-handed players during the season. “I never really got used to it, so I had to see what her weakness was and use it against her,” Palmerin said.
Various points during the match helped Palmerin figure out Alapi’s vulnerability. “I think her weakness was her backhand,” Palmerin said.
“She just overpowered,” Palmerin said. “She would hit the ball so hard that it would go out of the court.”
The ball actually stayed in the court but went past the back line, giving Palmerin the point. That would be her mental focus for the 12th game of the set. “I remember feeling very nervous, but I had to push that behind and block that out. I had to block all my emotions,” she said.
Returning the ball when Alapi put it in play was also Palmerin’s mental emphasis. “I had to lock in on the ball and focus on the present time,” Palmerin said. “I just wanted to keep in the game. I didn’t want it to end. I just kept going and going.”
If each player wins six games in a set, a tiebreaking game to seven points determines the winner of the set. Palmerin won the 7-5 tiebreaker to obtain a 7-6 victory in the second set and create another tiebreaking game to determine the winner of the third set and the match.
“It was very close,” Palmerin said. “I just kept going.”
Palmerin had a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker. “I kind of got too confident and it came back on me,” she said.
Alapi scored the next three points. “I just calmed myself down,” Palmerin said.
Palmerin refocused, and when her 7-6 lead was eliminated, the 7-7 score meant that Palmerin couldn’t allow Alapi to take the lead. “Just focused on the next point,” Palmerin said.
Not only did Palmerin win that point for an 8-7 lead, but she won the following two points for a 10-7 victory.
“She started losing focus. You could tell she was losing her focus,” Palmerin said. “I took advantage of it, and that’s what gave me the win.”
“She was really motivated,” Lenaway said.
“There’s something to be said to be able to come back,” Lenaway said. “I thought that was probably the best tennis she played all year.”
The victory advanced Palmerin to the third round two days later. “My goal was to get as far as I could,” she said. “The past two years I never got past the first round.”
The 2022 CIF tournament was the second for Hanlon and the first for Rowan. Their first Nov. 1 match was against Natalie Chen and Dylan Talarico‑Smith of Mission Bay. Hanlon and Rowan won the 6‑0, 6‑3 match.
“They won the first set the way they should have. I think they got a little complacent early in the second set,” Lenaway said. “They picked it up. They got it.”
“We worked well together, and I’m proud of us,” Rowan said.
“Erin was a great teammate and played really well,” Hanlon said.
“We had some good returns and shots,” Hanlon said. “They were a good team and we played really hard and worked really hard.”
The second-round match for Hanlon and Rowan was against Allyson Ly and Kristen Ngo of Mira Mesa. “They were a better team,” Lenaway said of the Marauders duo.
“They were a really strong team,” Rowan said.
“We made far more unforced errors,” Lenaway said. “They took advantage of it.”
Ly and Ngo won the match in 6-2 and 6-1 sets. “It seemed like a closer match than the score,” Lenaway said. “Their team just kind of played a little more consistently than we do.”
“It happens,” Rowan said. “I’m still proud of us.”
“We had some good shots,” Hanlon said. “We worked our hardest and tried our best.”
The Fallbrook doubles team also advanced further than any other Valley League tandem which all lost their first-round matches.
Cathedral Catholic junior Irene Torres had one of the unspecified 5‑8 seeds and thus had byes in the first two rounds. “She was a very nice girl to play against. I gained a lot of experience playing her,” Palmerin said.
Torres reached the quarterfinals of the tournament and began play with a 6‑1, 6-0 victory over Palmerin. “The gal she played was pretty solid,” Lenaway said.
“I knew what was ahead, but I don’t think I was prepared for it,” Palmerin said. “I started losing mental focus and my feet weren’t on point.”
“The match was competitive. A lot of really long points, long games,” Lenaway said.
“They were good points and I’m proud of that, but the match didn’t go my way,” Palmerin said.
Lenaway noted that the competition in the third round is at a higher level. “It’s pretty tough for everybody,” he said.
“For next year, my goal is to pass the third round,” Palmerin said.