All hands on deck
With the stage set at the 111th Annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament, the top-seeded Santa Monica College Corsairs did not disappoint in singles play, as Katerina Mozolyuk was able to defeat Nakieta Hein of Saddleback to bring home the 2011 Ojai tournament championship.
In 1897, William Thatcher announced a statewide tournament, pitting the best of Southern California against the best of Northern California; many people considered that to be the first Ojai. Since that time The Ojai has produced great tennis stars throughout its years such as Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Billy Jean King, and Pete Sampras.
Don Hoffmann who has been a volunteer for the Ojai for the past 12 years said, "For many of the youngsters that come here, this is the final phase of tennis."
This is the first year that Santa Monica has won a singles championship at Ojai. Unfortunately, SMC couldn't repeat its singles success in doubles play as freshman partners Criss Rodriguez and Krystal Hansard lost in a semifinals match against Reedley College's Alex McDonald and Nicole Simoni in doubles play.
Despite the loss, they stayed on top edging out Saddleback by one point to win the match 20-19 as a team in the tournament. This is the first time in SMC's storied history that the Corsairs were able to win the team championship.
Some would say there is no bigger honor in collegiate tennis than qualifying for The Ojai, with some even comparing it to qualifying for the NCAA men's basketball championship. "It's the Mecca of tennis," said SMC Head Coach Richard Goldenson.
The first two days of the tournament are the qualifying rounds to determine if a player will qualify for The Ojai, and SMC players Jutta Collet, Krystal Hansard, Criss Rodriguez and Katerina Mozolyuk were all invited to the big tournament.
Krystal Hansard was the first to take the court on day one of the tournament, a back-to-back singles match, and a doubles match later with partner Criss Rodriguez.
Hansard was able to rally from a split set in her first match against opponent Sabrina Emery of Mt. San Antonio and put it away with a 7-5 win in the third set. Her second match was not as exhausting as she took the victory in two sets winning 6-2 and 6-4. "I'm not letting her come back," Hansard said of her opponent in match two, as she was feeling a little fatigued from the previous match.
With Hansard finishing her singles matches for the day it was Mozolyuk and Rodriguez who were up next, both of them handled their opponents, easily advancing to the next round. Rodriguez and Hansard were able to defeat their opponents in doubles play advancing to the next round, but Collet and Mozolyuk couldn't do the same as they lost in the round of 16.
With SMC off to a great start, they all hoped to keep up the momentum, going into the round of 32, where Mozolyuk had a back-to-back singles match that she handled without sweat, to advance to the qualifying round.
Both Rodriguez and Hansard were at the losing end of their singles matches, making their singles tournament short. However, they were able to make up their singles misfortune in doubles, as they were able to advance to the semi-finals. In the end they regrettably lost to Reedley College's Alex McDonald and Nicole Simoni by a score of 7-5 and 6-3.
Although Rodriguez and Hansard lost in the semi-finals, they were able to pick up 5 points for the SMC team overall, which would be a crucial factor later in the tournament.
With both doubles teams out of the tournament and 2 of SMC players out for singles, the only SMC athlete left was Mozolyuk, who did not disappoint as she was able to capture the first 2011 Ojai championship in SMC's history.
Mozolyuk had no easy task on her way to a championship, her hardest match came against Grossmont's Jazmin Ortiz, who gave Mozolyuk all she had but came up short losing in the third set 3-6. "I was trying to pick at her backhand and that wasn't working," said Mozolyuk ."I just had to stay in it."
With all of the Ojai events done, the SMC tennis squad was able to edge out Saddleback for the team win overall, 20-19.
The Corsairs will play Grossmont College this Wednesday at Reed Park for a third round match up.