Corsairs sail into finals

Less than a week after SMC's Katerina Mozolyuk and Grossmont college's Jasmine Ortiz squared off in a 3 hour match in Ojai, the two were once again paired for Wednesday's third round playoff match at Reed Park that saw SMC pull out another impressive playoff victory to advance on to the State Championships in Fresno on May 12th. In Fresno, the Corsairs will be taking on Sierra College at the Sierra Sport and Racquet Club for the State Team Championship for the first time ever. Last year, the Corsairs were sent out of the playoffs one round shy of the State Championships.

After a tumultuous weekend of matches in Ojai and a mid-week afternoon playoffs match, the team is pretty worn down and Coach Richard Goldenson doesn't want to over exhaust his team before State.  "We've been taking it easy this week," said Goldenson, "We've only got six players and we don't want to push them too hard and cause an injury."

"Sierra has a good team and a good number one," Said Goldenson, "but they play a mental game. We have to be strong mentally."

In most playoff situations, teams turn to their team captains to step up and lead vocally, and although team captains Jutta Collet and Gwendolyn Kauffmann have done a stellar job leading the team all year, the leadership goes a lot further than them.

"They inspire each other," said Goldenson. "Every player plays their match like it's the most important match of the day."

It was that team unity that was on display Wednesday when the Corsairs delivered a 5-0 victory over Grossmont College. While the 5-0 outcome may have seemed like an easy win on paper, the Corsairs by no means had an easy road to victory.

Already exhausted, Katerina Mozolyuk and Jasmine Ortiz looked as if they were going to put on an encore to last Sunday's epic match that saw Mozolyuk come away victorious. Ortiz however, had other plans.

"She's good," said coach Goldenson before the match. "If she gets an opportunity, she will put the ball away."

Ortiz came out and took an early lead winning the first set 5-7 with hard hit balls that kept Mozolyuk active and out of her comfort zone.

About mid-way through the second set the two players were locked up at 4-4 apiece and it looked like Mozolyuk was poised to finish out the set to tie the match at one a piece and already in its second hour. But before the two could continue, the match was called because SMC had already sealed their victory.

Despite the anti-climactic finish to an otherwise exhilarating match, SMC did not just roll over their opponents with ease.

Co-captain Gwendolyn Kauffmann had perhaps one of the most inspired performances of the afternoon as she rallied back to beat Jami Thomas after losing the first set 3-6.

During the first set, it seemed as if all the energy and motivation had been lost.

"After I fell behind 2-0 in the second set I knew I had to turn it around," said Kauffmann, "she started off really strong, and it took me by surprise, but at that point I saw my opportunity I couldn't let it slip away."

With a small crowd watching and cheering her on, Kauffman understood that she had to win by any means. "Last year we lost at this point and I didn't want that to happen again," said Kauffman. "I didn't think about losing or about the mistakes I was making, I just focused on winning."

Kauffman went on to close out the match winning the last two sets, 6-3 and 6-1, topping off an inspired and motivated performance.

Criss Rodriguez had a similar experience losing her first set before winning the last two to beat Grossmont's Sharon Reibstein 6-4 and 6-3 in the final two sets.

On the other hand, freshman Hanna Sacher had a pretty easy day beating their opponents in straight sets. Sacher cruised to victory in her match as she defeated Grossmont's Lupita Sandoval, 6-1 and 6-3.

Additionally, co-captain Jutta Collet and Krystal Hansard also defeated their opponents 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-1 respectively.

A victory in Fresno will give Coach Goldenson and SMC tennis their first ever Team State Championship.

"We're groovin," said Goldenson. "We're grooving as a team, as tennis players and individuals."