By Dave Loveton
Santa Barbara City College Sports Information
OJAI – Miri Inoue used her fitness, consistency and calm demeanor to beat a teammate for a second straight match on Sunday and claim the CCCAA Women’s Tennis State Championship at Libbey Park.
Inoue, a sophomore from Orange Coast and the No. 2 seed, outlasted her teammate, fourth-seeded Shayee Sherif, 6-3, 6-4. Inoue eliminated her doubles partner, Nicole Knickerbocker, in Saturday’s semifinals.
“I was ready to play her (Sherif), I felt like I had nothing to lose,” said Inoue. “I was expecting a tight match. I know she’s been playing a lot of matches too. She played really well and all the games were deuce, deuce, deuce. There weren’t many 40-love games.
“I was trying to not make the first mistake and keep all the balls inside the court. When I had a chance, I was trying to hit it in the corners.”
Inoue jumped on top 5-1 in the first set on a chilly, overcast day. Sherif won two straight games before Inoue served for the set. She overcame deficits of 15-30 and 30-40 and after several deuce scores, she won the set 6-3 on a long hit by Sherif.
The second set followed a similar pattern as Inoue built leads of 3-1 and 5-2, only to have Sherif win two in a row again to cut the deficit to one game at 5-4. Inoue held her serve to secure the victory.
“It’s a great feeling to have two players in the final,” said Pirate coach Chris Ketcham. It’s really a celebration of the skill and talent we have this year. We had three of the four semifinalists, which really showed the strength of our team.
“I think Miri was a little stronger physically, emotionally and psychologically. That comes into play, especially after five straight days of tennis. Miri held up a little bit better. She’s very, very solid and very strong. She’s unflappable when it comes to emotions.”
Inoue and Knickerbocker were the No. 1 seed in doubles and they had to work for a pair of victories that brought them the state title on Sunday. They beat fourth-seeded Halla Alajeely/Sabrina Mendy of Irvine Valley 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the semifinals and won a long tiebreaker in the championship. They defeated the South’s No. 2 seed, Madi Giese and Lina Ito of El Camino, 7-6 (7), 6-3, to avenge their only loss of the season.
That made Inoue a Triple Crown winner with the state team title on Wednesday and singles and doubles wins on Sunday.
Ketcham noted that this year’s singles title is even more impressive when you consider what happened to Inoue last year.
“She lost a really, really tough match in the quarterfinals last year after leading 5-0 in the third set,” he recalled. “That was pretty devastating but for her to come back and have this kind of year is a great turnaround.”