They slipped into the CIF Southern Section Finals, as coach Mike Hoeger called it.

The Peninsula girls tennis team, ranked No. 2 heading into last Friday's championship match, were up against unbeaten, and top-ranked University at the Claremont Club.

Hoeger knew the Panthers had an upper hand, even if University had dominated each of its 20 matches.

"We had a lot of 10-8 wins this year, and we dominated no one. The girls are used to being in close matches," Hoeger said. "University hadn't had a close match all year, and we were hoping that might throw them off."

Hoeger's instinct proved right.

Tied at 8-8 heading into the final two matches, Peninsula's No. 1 and 2 doubles teams took the final matches of the day, helping Peninsula earn its first CIF-SS title behind a 10-8 victory.

"Our seniors had never been to the finals, and we dedicated this year to them," Hoeger said. "The girls wanted to get here, and they wanted to win."

While Peninsula had Kimmi Hance, it's No. 1 singles player, throughout most of its CIF-SS run, it was Maddie Jessup that Hoeger called the Panthers x-factor.

"Having Maddie was essential for us," Hoeger said. "We would not have won without her."

Hoeger pinpointed a match at center court between Jessup and University's No. 1, Cami Brown. Jessup returned Thursday night from a junior ITF tournament in Ontario, Canada, to join the Panthers for the championship match.

"They were tied at 3, and there was a long deuce point," Hoeger said. "I thought the travel fatigue was catching up to her, but she bared down, and that was a key win for us."

Jessup beat Brown 6-3, and swept her other two matches on the day. Hance swept her three singles matches as well, giving Peninsula a much-needed six points.

"Maddie's play was essential for us," Hoeger said."We didn't know how she would handle the pressure as a freshman, and we didn't know if she understood the gravity of it all. Some times its tougher on the seniors."

The Panthers No. 1 doubles team, Koko Macrygiannis and Cydney Yamamoto, swept each of their three matches, taking their final and most important one, 6-3.

But it was the play of Lindsey Eisenman and Sarah Hodges, Peninsula's No. 2 doubles, against University's No. 3 doubles team that sealed the victory for Peninsula on Friday.

"That win was big," Hoeger said. "They'd lost two matches earlier, and were really feeling like they'd let the team down."

Peninsula now sets its sights on the CIF USTA SoCal Championships, Friday and Saturday at the Claremont Club.

Top-seeded Peninsula begins the day against Granada Hills, and Hoeger now is forced with shuffling his lineup. Instead of having three singles players and three doubles teams, Peninsula will now abide by the NorCal rules, utilizing four singles players and three doubles teams.

"We have to kind of re-group," Hoeger said. "Winning CIF was ultimately our goal, and now it's on to state. We're the No. 1 seed, and everyone will be shooting for us. We kind of like slipping in the other way."

Hoeger noted he'll use Eisenman in singles, as a preparation for next season.

"We'll give (Eisenman) a chance to shine in state," Hoeger said. "I think she's going to surprise a lot of people, and we need to set her up for next year, where she'll be a big singles player for us."

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