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Claremont teens meet tough challenges at tourney

The USTA Southern California Sectional Tournament provided the stage for 2 of Claremont’s young tennis stars to play against some of the strongest competition in the country. Raquel Pedraza and Toby Miclat, both teenagers, each played for the honor of getting one step closer to qualifying for the famed U.S. Open.

At the Claremont Club on Monday, Pedraza fell to Elizabeth Lumpkin in the first round of the ladies singles bracket, 3-6, 2-6. The next day, Miclat and her partner Alex Kitto were defeated 1-6, 6-2, 3-6 by Lumpkin and Konstantin Lazarov in mixed doubles.

In the 6th installment of 13 sectional US Open qualifying tournaments this summer, hard-hitting 15-year old Raquel Pedraza squared off against Naperville, Illinois’ golden girl Elizabeth Lumpkin. This year alone, Pedraza has won 2 tournaments and appeared in quarterfinals 6 times in both doubles and singles. Pedraza’s most recent win came in another USTA Regional Tournament in January 2013, when she defeated Albany’s Allison Chuang 6-3, 6-4. This time, however, Pedraza would be competing against the 27-year old former UCLA athlete Lumpkin, a 3-time All Pac-10 scholar-athlete.

Pedraza held serve during the opening game of the first set. She then hit a running forehand passing shot in the 2nd game, and broke Lumpkin’s serve to make it 2-0. It was clear Lumpkin’s calibration was off in the beginning of the match, but she would soon hit her stride. Pedraza served again, and lost a bit of momentum when she hit a shot down the line. The ball hit close to the line, and Lumpkin controversially called the ball out. This was to be the swing in momentum Lumpkin needed.

The next 4 games went to Lumpkin. She hit a drop volley after a 20-plus shot rally, then hit a cross-court approach winner to take the lead, 3-2. Lumpkin added to the lead with a perfectly executed lob that had Pedraza sprinting, in vain, back toward her own baseline. Pedraza was able to temporarily turn it around when losing 2-4. Pedraza made a fantastic play at 15-all when she chased down another angled approach shot by Lumpkin, and planted her forehand deep in the court for a winner. After another long rally at 40-30, Pedraza hit a passing shot cross-court to get back into the match, 3-4.

Lumpkin soon took charge and closed out the set. After a quick game, Lumpkin hit another volley winner to make it 5-3. She then closed out the first set in style. Pedraza pulled a slice short for a drop shot, and Lumpkin ran it down to cheekily flip the return cross-court. The game went to deuce after a colossal overhead smash by Pedraza, but Lumpkin got her angles right on the next 2 points. Another topspin lob at set point sealed the first set for Lumpkin.

In the 2nd set, it appeared Lumpkin had gained control. Pedraza displayed some powerful, yet inaccurate serving, hitting 3 double faults, but also grabbing 2 service aces. Pedraza’s athleticism was clearly impressive, but her mental resolve did not match her immense talent. Leading 4-2, Lumpkin took the final 2 games to seal a 2-set victory.

Pedraza was candid on her performance and what the near future holds. “I can definitely improve on knowing when to go for the right ball, and not pulling the trigger too early. Keeping inside the point and being consistent, and playing more high percentage tennis will help me win. I will be playing in the girls 18’s sectionals coming up, and in some other tournaments on both clay and hard courts. I just came back from playing in a couple of pro tournaments in Mexico, and I got in last night, so it’s been a long day. I got to the quarterfinals there, and hope to keep gaining experience.”

The tandem of Claremont High girls tennis captain Toby Miclat and male partner Alex Kitto from Jacksonville, Florida did not fare much better. Lumpkin was again the opponent, paired with Irvine native Konstantin Lazarov. Miclat and Kitto dropped the first set, then rallied to take the 2nd set. Lumpkin and Lazarov closed out the final set to move on to the next round. Although this particular tournament did not produce any hometown victors, we can be sure that both women will be back in action soon.

—Chris Oakley

sports@claremont-courier.com

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