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Pali High Tennis Tames Unicorns

The shuffled lineup comes through in a 6-1 victory at LACES.

Perri Zaret and Julie Takakjian have been unbeatable in doubles for the tennis team this season, but on Wednesday against Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies both posted impressive singles victories, sparking the Dolphins' 6-1 victory to open the second round of play.

One of the Dolphins' senior co-captains, Zaret had been a singles player prior to this year and relied on all of her previous experience to beat Whitney Kim 8-2 at the No. 2 position. Alhough she has enjoyed playing doubles with Takakjian this season, Zaret was happy to be playing singles again, if only for a day.

"It's nice being back in my element and playing doubles has actually helped my [singles] game," said Zaret, who used a variety of shots to mix up the pace and keep her opponent from establishing any kind of rhythm. "I was coming to net more, putting away volleys and using shorter angles. It was a long match but I stuck through it."

Coach Sean Passan praised Zaret's leadership and versatility.

"Perri's an amazing captain—she does whatever the team needs," he said. "She was patient, she didn't fall into the other girls' trap and she just showcased her experience. It took her the longest to finish, but in the end it was a convincing win." 

Takakjian, a sophomore, also impressed her coach with her 8-0 victory at No. 3 singles over LACES senior Liz Linfield, who has had success against the Dolphins the past several years.

"She's a tricky player and she had won every year at singles no matter who we played against her," Passan said of Linfield. "That one player cost us league one year. It always seemed to come down to her match. So it was great to see Julie beat her so decisively."

Palisades had won by the same score in the teams' first meeting Sept. 21 at the , but the Dolphins used a completely different lineup this time around. Jesse Zand and Katie Pfannkuche, who played No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, in the previous match against the Unicorns, won 8-5 at the top doubles spot Wednesday. The pro set was tied 4-4 before the Dolphins' duo won four of the last five games.

"It wasn't anything the LACES [team] was doing, it was more about us and our strategy," Passan said. "Once the girls figured that out, they were in control."

In addition to splitting up his No. 1 doubles team, Passan rested several starters, including singles players Diana Silvers and Jessie Corneli and the No. 3 doubles duo of co-captain Emily Wettleson and Melody Wilkenfeld. 

"This was a win-win situation," Passan said of his decision to shuffle the lineup. "In the big picture, even if we lost a couple more sets it would've been worth it because other players got a chance."

Notching the Dolphins' first singles point was freshman Alexandra Kugler, who defeated Zoe Spezzano 8-3 at the No. 4 spot. Kugler had partnered with junior Caitlin Roshani to win at No. 3 doubles in her first varsity match against Venice.

Annie Gingold and Lauren Sedmak, who had needed only 18 minutes to beat LACES twins Lilac and Dahlia Peterson in the first meeting with LACES, played a different duo Wednesday but the result was the same: a quick 8-0 victory.

Juniors Alexa Ebner and Julia Levitan teamed up for the third time this season on varsity and easily won their doubles pro set 8-0 over the Peterson sisters. They had previously played varsity against Beverly Hills and Hamilton.

"We had a great time playing today. It was really hot but we handled it well," Ebner said. "We're in it 100 percent of the time and we try to win by the best score we can."

"We were stronger at the net, so we hit lots of approach shots to come in every chance we got and intimidate them," Levitan added. "We like playing on varsity so we wanted to win big to show [Coach] Passan that we've earned the spot."

Playing No. 1 singles for the first time this season was sophomore Katie Vincent, who took the first game off of LACES senior Yvonne Likomanova before falling 8-2 in a set that was closer than the score would indicate, as all but two games went to deuce. Likomanova made the finals of the last year.

"I could handle the pace, but her serve was giving me trouble," said Vincent, who did not play in the teams' first league match. "When I did return it, I gave her too many short balls that she could attack. My serve's probably improved  the most since last year but I had four double faults today. I learned my lesson that I need to be smarter. If I play her again I need to hit more balls on the rise and not give her time to get back in the points."

Passan's goal is to qualify as many of his players as possible for the Individual tournament. He was proud of Vincent's effort against the league's top player.

"It wasn't her ability, it was her choices," Passan said. "Katie was staying in it, but she hit too many safe shots. Going forward we're going to try to integrate her inside-out forehand because that's a huge weapon."

Zaret remains confident the season will culminate with a City championship and she looks forward to continuing her doubles success with Takakjian. 

"Julie is amazing and it was sad today not playing with her," Zaret admitted. "I always like singles, but I'm excited to be playing with Julie and we want to see where we can go with this."

MATCH SUMMARY

Palisades 6, LACES 1

SINGLES

(1) Katie Vincent, Palisades, lost to Yvonne Likomanova, 8-2.

(2) Perri Zaret, Palisades, d. Whitney Kim, 8-2.

(3) Julie Takakjian, Palisades, d. Liz Linfield, 8-0.

(4) Alexandra Kugler, Palisades, d. Zoe Spezzano, 8-3.

DOUBLES

(1) Jesse Zand-Katie Pfannkuche, Palisades, d. Bari Scott-Denisha Selma, 8-5.

(2) Annie Gingold-Lauren Sedmak, Palisades, d. Annie Choi-Rebecca Ahn, 8-0

(3) Alexa Ebner-Julia Levitan, Palisades, d. Lilac Peterson-Dahlia Peterson, 8-0.

Records: Palisades 7-0-1, 6-0; LACES 5-2, 5-2.

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