Maranatha’s Magical CIF D-4 Runs Ends in Semifinal Round; Lady Minutemen Fall to No. 1 Keppel, 12-6, on Thursday

Nov 11 2022 11:58:06

Girls Tennis:

Thanks to Maranatha tennis for this report:

In the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, there’s #1 Mark Keppel and then there’s everyone else.

Via an improved but imperfect powerpoint formula that assigns schools to certain divisions each season, the Mark Keppel Aztecs, who were in Division 3 last season, were assigned to Divison 4 this year, giving them a clear window to claim the Division 4 championship as the most dominant team in the division. Had they been placed in Division 3, they still would be a top 8 team.

Those were the prospects facing the fledgling Lady Minutemen in the CIF-SS Division 4 semi-finals. With no tournament players on their roster, and with the Aztecs’ roster filled with tournament players, this was a David v. Goliath matchup.

Despite having lost to Keppel earlier this season, 14-4 (with the Aztecs missing their best player), the Lady Minutemen prepared for and were determined to show them that they had improved and were ready to put up a fight. And fight they did.

With the stakes so high, Keppel brought their fully-loaded lineup, including their top player, Dana Kunza; possibly the top player in the division.

Knowing the first round would be crucial to their hopes for an upset, Maranatha hoped to come out of the round with a 3-3 tie or a 4-2 deficit, at worst, in order to stay within striking distance.

With the lone win in the first 5 sets at the #3 singles spot, courtesy of Audrey Loh (6-1), all eyes turned to #3 doubles, Nelli Breuer/Marie Wolfrum, who saw their 3-0 lead evaporate. With a set point at 5-4, they weren’t able to capitalize on the chance and wound up in a tie-breaker at 6-6. Though behind, 5-2, in the tie-break, the Aztecs were able reel off 5 straight points to stun Breuer/Wolfrum with a 7-5 win, giving the Aztecs a 5-1 lead.

In the second round, #2 doubles, Mia Huang/Mia Su, were able to secure a 6-1 win, as was Arminak. If #1 singles, Stella Hsieh, could pull off the win against the Aztecs’ #2 singles, Noor Abani (another ranked tournament player), the 2nd round would be evenly split at 3-3.

It was the most exciting set of the day, as the set swung back and forth throughout. Hsieh had an opportunity to get some separation at 3-2, 40-15; however, a couple of untimely double faults cost her that chance. Abani won the next game to take a 4-3 lead. Hsieh battled back to tie it at 4-4. In the end, Abani was able to outlast Hsieh, 6-4, giving the Aztecs an insurmountable 9-3 lead, sealing the victory. Even if Maranatha was able to even the score at 9-9, Keppel had more games to break the tie.

Thus ended the magical season of a team that Coach Arthur Hsieh said got the most from of what they had out of any girls team he’s ever coached. Today’s loss also ended their memorable and unexpected 14 match winning streak.

It was a season beyond expectations for the Lady Minutemen. Playing in their 5th semi-finals in the last 10 years, this team became the first MHS girls team to make the semi-finals in Division 4. The previous 4 appearances (with 2 of them ending in CIF-SS championships in 2014 and 2018) were in Division 5.

This team also won the Olympic League title with an undfeated 8-0 record (their 8th in 10 years).

On the individual side of things, Stella Hsieh and Kasey McCoy/Esmee Eaton won both the league MVP awards for singles and doubles, and were the league tournament champions. Each will represent the Olympic League in the prestigious CIF-SS Individuals sectionals on November 21.

Today’s match also caps the stellar careers of 4-year starters, Stella Hsieh and Audrey Loh, and 2-year starter, Kasey McCoy, each of who will be sorely missed.

Photo of seniors Kasey McCoy, Stella Hsieh, and Audrey Loh courtesy of Amanda Lin