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Sherman Oaks Notre Dame boys tennis team outlasts Murrieta Valley in Division 3 title match

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REDLANDS — A race to the finish line felt more like a marathon for the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Murrieta Valley boys tennis teams.

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy serves against Murrieta Valley’s...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy serves against Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson...

    Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici talks with head coach Trent Warren,...

    Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici talks with head coach Trent Warren, left as Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy talks with head coach Jen Berman during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy is congratulated by teammates...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy is congratulated by teammates after his loss to Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca keeps his eyes on...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca keeps his eyes on the ball as he defeated Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson in a marathon set during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s during the CIF Southern...

    Murrieta Valley’s Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley double team player Jonathan Coyle misses a shot...

    Murrieta Valley double team player Jonathan Coyle misses a shot against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Fans cheer and make noise during player introductions for Murrieta...

    Fans cheer and make noise during player introductions for Murrieta Valley and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame before the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson in a marathon match during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame doubles team players Nico Arguello, left...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame doubles team players Nico Arguello, left and Jay Vizzie celebrate a point against Murrieta Valley during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley doubles team Aidan Hever, left and Kingston Bartch...

    Murrieta Valley doubles team Aidan Hever, left and Kingston Bartch react to losing a point to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Jackson Geltzer and Bryce Chadbourn during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson grimaces in pain after a injury...

    Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson grimaces in pain after a injury against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca celebrates as he defeats...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca celebrates as he defeats Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson in a marathon set during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca gets a pat on...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca gets a pat on the back from Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson after their marathon match during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin...

    Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson tries to cool off in a...

    Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson tries to cool off in a marathon set against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici helps Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin...

    Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici helps Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca off the court after he retired due to injury during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson in a marathon match during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin...

    Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca plays Murrieta Valley’s Owen Pearson in a marathon match during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame doubles team players Jay Vizzie, left...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame doubles team players Jay Vizzie, left and Nico Arguello celebrate a point against Murrieta Valley’s Jonathan Coyle and Dominick Ramirez during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley double team’s Jonathan Coyle, left and Dominick Ramirez...

    Murrieta Valley double team’s Jonathan Coyle, left and Dominick Ramirez react after losing a point against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Nico Arguello and Jay Vizzie during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca is tended to by...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca is tended to by trainers after an injury while playing Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici in a marathon match during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem Tarassians plays Murrieta Valley’s Keiran...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem Tarassians plays Murrieta Valley’s Keiran Bell during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Keiran Bell plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem...

    Murrieta Valley’s Keiran Bell plays Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem Tarassians during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem Tarassians cools off while playing...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Vem Tarassians cools off while playing Murrieta Valley’s Keiran Bell during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley doubles team player Kingston Bartch serves against Sherman...

    Murrieta Valley doubles team player Kingston Bartch serves against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy reacts after a missed...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Hudson Spezialy reacts after a missed shot against Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame players cheer for teammate Hudson Spezialy...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame players cheer for teammate Hudson Spezialy as he plays Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici takes a break between games against...

    Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici takes a break between games against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s Austin Lucca during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Sherman Oaks Notre Dame head coach Jen Berman celebrates with...

    Sherman Oaks Notre Dame head coach Jen Berman celebrates with the championship trophy after her team defeated Murrieta Valley to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 boys tennis championship at the University of Redlands in Redlands on Friday, May 10, 2024. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Temperatures during Friday afternoon’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship match only reached 82 degrees, but that was warm enough for players on both sides to experience occasional bouts of dehydration and cramping. Notre Dame singles standout Austin Lucca had to retire during the second rotation, and Murrieta Valley’s top singles player Owen Pearson hobbled his way to the end of the match.

After four hours of intense action, Notre Dame emerged victorious, prevailing 81-78 on total games won after each of the teams claimed nine points.

“This was a hard-fought match between two great teams, and everybody played their hearts out,” Notre Dame coach Jen Berman said.

Friday’s championship match at University of Redlands’ Verdieck Tennis Center was expected to be a showdown between Notre Dame’s stacked singles lineup and Murrieta Valley’s deep and balanced doubles teams. But nobody could have predicted what unfolded.

Lucca and Pearson squared off at No. 1 singles in the opening round and treated everybody to one of the best matches of the day. Lucca scored an early break but began experiencing cramps midway through the set. Pearson broke back to level the set at 4, and the players again traded breaks to force a tiebreaker. Lucca raced to a 5-0 advantage in the breaker and held on to win it 7-4.

“That was a fun and exciting match,” Pearson said. “Austin is a great guy, great player. I like playing those kind of matches.”

But that set took a toll on both players. Pearson injured three fingers on his right hand late in the set and also began cramping at the start of the breaker. Pearson managed to pull out a 6-4 win over Hudson Spezialy in the second rotation, but he struggled to move in the final set and dropped a 6-1 decision to Vem Tarassians. Knowing the score was close and could be decided by a tiebreaker, Pearson stayed on the court and tried to win a few more games.

Murrieta Valley entered the match with a 22-0 record and was the division’s top-seeded team. Notre Dame comes from the Mission League, one of the top leagues for boys tennis in the Southern Section, and was the No. 2-seeded team in the bracket. And there was very little separating the teams Friday, as Murrieta Valley and Notre Dame each claimed three points during all three of the rotations.

“It was a crazy day from start to finish,” Murrieta Valley coach Trent Warren said. “We told the kids that this one could come down to games, and it did. It’s tough, but those things happen. Sometimes you’re on the winning side, and other times you’re not.”

Notre Dame (16-3) entered the final round of singles play with an 8-7 lead. Murrieta Valley’s Keiran Bell cruised to a 6-0 win over Max Brown, who subbed in for Lucca. Tarassians’ win over Pearson put the Knights back in front and also gave them a four-game advantage.

The final match was between Murrieta Valley’s Roberto Federici and Spezialy. Federici completed a singles sweep when he won a tiebreaker 7-4. That pulled the Nighthawks even, but Spezialy was able to keep the score close and help secure his team’s victory and the program’s first section title.

In the end, Murrieta Valley won more singles sets (five), while Notre Dame was the team that won more doubles sets (five).

Berman said a big reason the Knights came out on top at the end of Friday afternoon’s match was the play of the No. 2 doubles team of Nico Arguello and Jay Vizzie. That pairing picked up three crucial points, sweeping their sets 6-4, 6-3 and 6-1.

“They were outstanding today,” Berman said. “When Austin went down, we needed someone to step up, and those two came through.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Warren was proud of his squad, which reached the section finals for the first time in program history.

“We pretty much fulfilled most of our goals this season,” Warren said. “We had a chance, and I am just proud of all of them.”

Murrieta Valley’s doubles teams of Aidan Hever-Kingston Barch and Johnny Coyle and Dominick Ramirez each scored two points.

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