Prokopchuk, DeFrancescu win marathons to advance to State final

(Photo by George Mategakis)
(Photo by George Mategakis)

Complete Ojai Results

By Dave Loveton
Santa Barbara City College Sports Information

OJAI – Kseniia Prokopchuk of Cerritos College and Sandra DeFrancescu of De Anza rallied for marathon semifinal victories on Saturday in the CCCAA Women’s Tennis Championships at the Ojai Valley Racquet Club.

Prokopchuk, the No. 6 seed, outlasted her teammate and doubles partner, No. 2 seed Lisa Suzuki, by scores of 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Their match lasted more than three hours and Prokopchuk overcame deficits of 3-2 in the second set and 2-0 in the third.

The second-seeded DeFrancescu had a stirring day, erasing a 5-0 deficit in the third set of her quarterfinal, then storming back from a 4-1 hole to win the second set in the semifinal. She beat No. 3 Miri Inoue of Orange Coast 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7) in the quarters and No. 1 Halla Alajeely of Irvine Valley 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Prokopchuk dominated her quarterfinal match, upsetting the top seed from the North, Eva Spindler of American River, 6-0, 5-0, retired.

Prokopchuk will be joined in the state finals by her brother, Alexy. They’re from the Ukraine and believed to be the first sister-brother duo to ever make the State finals.

The women’s final is set for Sunday at Libbey Park, starting at 11 a.m., the same time as the men’s final.

Prokopchuk, the No. 3 player on the Falcons’ state championship team, took a 3-0 lead in the first set and then Suzuki won the next six games. Prokopchuk and Suzuki played a lot of long points with rallies in the 20-25 stroke range.

"It was difficult to play my doubles partner because we are close friends and she’s pretty good,” said Prokopchuk, who’s 28-2 in singles and 30-0 in doubles. “I tried to concentrate, stay focused and fight for each point.”

Prokopchuk said this won’t be the first time that she and her brother have played in the finals of the same tournament.

“Lisa and Kseniia played each other in the conference final and it was about the same thing with Lisa winning that match in three sets,” said Cerritos coach Quinn Caldaron. “Anytime they play, it’s always a battle.”

Suzuki was fighting a leg injury that kept cramping up.

“She got hurt earlier in the season and then got healthy,” said Caldaron. “These are long days and this is a tough tournament. Sometimes, it comes down to a battle of attrition. After battling each other, now they have to go try and pump it up together in doubles.”

Prokopchuk and Suzuki did just that, taking their doubles quarterfinal 6-1, 6-2 over the fourth seed from Chabot. They’ll face Miri Inoue/Cameryn Mason of Orange Coast in a Sunday semifinal at 8 a.m.

DeFrancescu, a freshman from Romania, lost the first set 6-3 and was down 4-1 in the second. She survived several match points in her quarterfinal win and Alajeely had two chances when she was leading 5-4 in the second set and DeFrancescu was serving. The De Anza star fought off the match points and drilled a backhand shot up the right sideline to tie it, 5-5. She won the next two games for the 7-5 victory.

Both players needed attention from the trainer after the second set. DeFrancescu was sitting on the court in exhaustion and Alajeely was trying to get through an asthma attack.

DeFrancescu fell behind 2-0 in the third set, then won five of six games to go up 5-3. Alajeely served and, following four deuces, DeFrancescu won the match 6-3 on a pair of errors.
“I don’t know how I came back in two straight matches,” said DeFrancescu, who’s probably the hardest hitter in the tournament. “I had my teammates supporting me and they helped me mentally so much.
“It’s amazing to be in the final. I want this because I’m scared that I’m not going to have the chance to get a full ride (scholarship) and I may have to go back to my country. So I want this more than anything.”
DeFrancescu and Maria Zimmerman are the No. 1 seed from the North in doubles. They rallied to beat fifth-seeded Moa Lindstrom/Petra Such of Cerritos 1-6, 7-6, 10-4 (tiebreaker) in their afternoon quarterfinal. They’ll battle No. 3 Eva Spindler and Lilana Spindler of American River in Sunday’s semifinals.
The doubles final is slated for 2 p.m. at Libbey Park.
“That was an amazing performance by Sandra, she was out there for more than six hours in two matches and she overcame a 5-0 deficit in the third set of her first match,” said De Anza coach Ron Ward. “She’s a fighter. She’s out here battling and she wants to go to a four-year school.
“Her aspirations are to play on the (WTA) Tour. A lot of girls may dream about that but she talks about it all the time. Then she goes out there and works hard every day.”