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Wildcats win 10-8 tennis play-in match against Warriors

The CIF Division III boys tennis playoffs April 15-20 began with El Camino High School winning a 10-8 match over Fallbrook.

The April 15 play-in match ended Fallbrook’s dual match season. The Warriors finished with an overall record of 9-6 and were 6-2 in Valley League play which gave Fallbrook second place in the standings.

In 2013, the CIF San Diego Section transitioned from playoff divisions based on enrollment to divisions based on competitive balance. The divisions were set prior to the start of the season. 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 postseason, and schools whose UTR ranked 41st through 56th along with any league champions who received automatic playoff berths were Division III participants.

A league champion, or a designated league champion in the event of a co-championship or tri-championship, is guaranteed both a CIF playoff berth and a first-round home match. The proliferation of leagues in the San Diego Section has led to additional league champions, and the creation of power rankings led to noticeable instances where a team was replaced in the playoffs by a weaker league champion.

In 2015, the San Diego Section approved a compromise which created a play-in if a league champion is seeded lower in the power rankings than the team which would have been replaced it in the playoffs by the automatic qualifier. The play-in is between the league champion and the lowest seeded team, although multiple play-in contests may involve more than one low-seeded team and, if the lowest seeded team and the unseeded league champion are in the same league, adjustments to the bracket are made so that the play-in is not between schools in the same league.

El Camino placed fifth in the Palomar League so neither the Wildcats nor the Warriors were guaranteed a playoff match. However, the two teams were tied for the 56th-highest UTR total.

“We had the exact same UTR,” said Fallbrook coach Bill Lenaway.

Fallbrook’s 2024 season began Feb. 27 with an 11-7 home win over El Camino. “We got the home match because we had beat them,” Lenaway said.

The Warriors won eight of the nine singles sets Feb. 27. Three of those were won by senior Anthony Wilson, who will be at Yale University for the 2024-25 academic year and missed the April 15 play-in due to an orientation at Yale.

“It was a no-brainer to have him go to Yale,” Lenaway said. “I was not going to ask him to stay home from the orientation.”

Fallbrook’s doubles team of sophomore Billy Mathewson and freshman Casey Manion won two of their three sets Feb. 27. They prevailed in all three of their April 15 sets with 6-1, 6-2 and 6-3 victories.

“We played a set better,” Lenaway said.

One of the players who was a partner in Fallbrook’s other doubles win Feb. 27 played singles April 15 and lost all three sets. His Feb. 27 doubles partner had a different doubles teammate April 15, and they lost all three of their sets.

Mathewson and Manion were joined in winning three sets by junior Connor Skaja, whose singles competitions had 7-5, 6-4, and 6-1 results. “I’m always happy when they win three,” Lenaway said.

Although sophomore Micah Kendall lost a 6-4 set to El Camino’s #1 singles player, Kendall won 6-2 and 6-0 sets in the play-in match.

“We were pretty solid in singles,” Lenaway said.

Wilson was the only senior on this year’s Fallbrook team. Manion was one of five freshmen. Lenaway noted that the play-in match provided additional experience for the younger players.

“The freshmen got another match under their belt,” Lenaway said.

Fallbrook did not have a high enough team UTR for the 2023 team playoffs. The 2022 Warriors were seeded 12th in the Division II playoffs and lost their first-round match to fifth-seeded Steele Canyon. Wilson and Skaja were Fallbrook’s only 2024 players who participated in the 2022 playoffs.

“We got to compete in the CIF,” Lenaway said. “It worked out okay.”

Canyon Hills had the top seed in this year’s Division III playoffs, so the winner of the Fallbrook-El Camino match advanced to play the Rattlers on their court.

“We all know how that went,” Lenaway said.

The April 16 match between Canyon Hills and El Camino ended as a 15-3 Rattlers triumph.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001

 

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