The Santa Barbara High girls tennis team rallied from a 5-1 first-round deficit and defeated Claremont, 10-8, in a CIF-SS Division 1 first-round playoff match on Wednesday in Claremont.

Down 7-5 going into the last round, the Dons caught fire and won five of six sets to take the victory over the Palomares League champions.

“It was a very exciting and emotional match for the Dons today,” said coach Danny Echt. “The girls kept their heads cool when we were clearly deep in a hole after the first round..  Being down in a CIF match and coming back so strong in the last two rounds made it a very special win for a great group of girls.” 

Echt said the team of senior Ashley Birch and sophomore Juliana Aviani “played their best doubles match of the year in the third round, when it counted the most. Ashley essentially hit through their best team, and Juliana set Ashley up at the net with very solid ground strokes.  It was a very high-level set, and closing out their top team was amazing.”

The Dons play their second-round match at home on Friday at 2 p.m.  

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.