COSTA MESA — Everywhere you looked, there were people taking pictures on the tennis courts at Estancia High on Tuesday.
Estancia girls' tennis coach Rachel de los Santos said the school yearbook and newspaper were both on hand to snap photos. Two other photographers, including one from this newspaper, also were present.
The Battle for the Bell matches against rival Costa Mesa are big. De los Santos wasn't too concerned with the increased media presence early in the match.
She mostly wanted a fast start from her squad. She got it, and the Eagles went on to thump the Mustangs, 14-4, in the Orange Coast League opener for both teams.
"Our goal for today was to come out of the first round strong," de los Santos said. "In a lot of our preseason matches leading up to this, we were a little shaky. The doubles players don't seem to be in sync and the singles players are a little slow on their feet in that first round, then we start to pick it up as the match goes on. Our goal today was to come out strong and come out of that first round ahead, which we did."
Estancia took a 5-1 lead after the first round. That took a while to decide, as the schools' No. 1 doubles teams were locked in a fierce battle. But Estancia junior Morgan Miller and sophomore Eden Steel outlasted Mesa junior Laura Le and senior Irie Flanders, 7-5.
Miller and Steel swept their sets Tuesday, winning their other sets 6-1and 6-3. Estancia's No. 2 team of juniors Mikaela Soriano and Andrea Ponce also swept, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1, and the No. 3 pairing of junior Mai Le and freshman Lauren Weisser also won a set.
The Eagles (4-4) were balanced, too. Sophomore Kinley Ohland swept at No. 1 singles, winning 18 of 19 games, while junior Slade Garnett and senior Doris Corona also won two of three sets.
"We're definitely pretty even across the board," de los Santos said. "I think what's really helped us this year is that I have three doubles teams who started preseason together, and they're all still together. We had seven matches coming into this one today, with them getting prepared and getting ready. I've never had that before. I've always had a lot of switching around in doubles, trying to figure out who's going to play with who. It's nice to have those three set doubles teams."
Miller said it has been an adjustment moving to doubles, after playing singles her first two years at Estancia. But she has a chemistry on the court with Steel.
"She definitely helps me keep my cool, because I get very frustrated with myself," Miller said.
Steel just smiled.
"It's just like, 'Breathe,'" Steel said. "It's all good. It's just one point. I think we definitely help each other out a lot. That's the good thing about doubles; you're working with someone."
The Eagles are excited for this season and ones to come, as Corona is their only senior starter. But they know getting overconfident in a rivalry match is dangerous. Last year they beat Mesa on the road, 11-7, in their first league meeting but lost at home 10-8, in the second.
This year, the teams will play again at the Mustangs' courts on Oct. 10.
"I don't think we're going to get cocky," Miller said. "I think we're just going to stay confident and try to do our best."
Senior Hoan Nguyen won twice in singles for Costa Mesa (1-5). The doubles teams of Mahina Won-Milho and Susana Rowe, as well as Laura Le and Flanders, also won a set each.
First-year coach Benny Quinonez said he has seen improvement from the Mustangs.
"Skill-wise, I think we've always had it," Quinonez said. "It's just fine-tuning it. We're getting there. We're not fully there yet, but we're getting there."