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SPLIT DECISION

Ma falls in singles finale; Manteca tandem wins doubles title

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SPLIT DECISION

Yok Jing Ma of Manteca returns a shot to Kimball’s Garrett Chun during the Valley Oak League singles final Thursday at Weston Ranch. Chun would win it in three sets to repeat as champion.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin /


POSTED May 2, 2014 12:30 a.m.

STOCKTON — After failing to do so as a singles player two years in a row, Mike Lopez finally has himself a Valley Oak League championship.

This time he competed in doubles competition, the first time the standout junior has done so in his career. With reliable senior Alex Vazquez at his side, they knocked off Kimball’s pesky pair of Mark Dalupan and Ivan Acosta 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-2 in the final round Thursday at Weston Ranch High.

Lopez was the runner-up in the singles tournament the past two years, and this week he settled for third.

“It feels amazing to finally get the gold,” Lopez said. “And I got a bronze, so I have two medals. I’m happy.”

Also on Thursday, Manteca’s Yok Jing Ma — a two-time doubles champion — gave defending singles titlist Garrett Chun of Kimball his toughest match in league but came up short in the final-round showdown, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6.

Weston Ranch’s Ion Obiso and Chai Saepharn teamed up to place third in doubles action. They gutted out a 7-6, 6-7, 10-7 victory over Sonora’s Andrew Klatt and Donald Truong.

All in all, it was another fine showing for Manteca, which has routinely been represented in the championship round of both tournaments in recent years. The Buffaloes now own seven of the last eight VOL doubles crowns, and they have had at least one player advance to the singles final five times over that same stretch. In 2008, brothers Mostafa and Yassen Aniss — both Manteca grads — dueled for the title.

“It was a great tournament for us,” Manteca coach Frank Fontana said. “We’re on a pretty good run doubles-wise, and we’re doing it with different guys every year. It’s just a sign of how deep we are as a team. The guys get along, the chemistry is good and they play well together.”

Playing doubles took some getting used to for Lopez. He has previously served as a sparring partner for the team’s normal doubles tandems in practice. Vazquez, on the other hand, is an experienced doubles player. He started out the season as a member of the Buffaloes’ No. 1 doubles team before Fontana promoted him to the singles ladder midway through league.

“I’m not a super aggressive player and doubles is obviously more fast-paced,” Lopez said. “I’m more of a passive player but it has taught me to be more aggressive. I think it will help me more as a singles player.”

Naturally, Manteca’s championship twosome was at its best with Vazquez roaming near the net and Lopez protecting the baseline.

“He’s super solid at the net, better than me, I’ll admit that,” Lopez said of Vazquez, who hammered home the final point of the championship match with an emphatic overhand smash. They celebrated the win with a leaping chest bump, the same way Manteca doubles champs Angel Tejada and Ma did a year ago.

“It was pretty sweet,” Vazquez said of the clinching point. “It’s the best way to end your senior year in league.”

Vazquez struggled at the start after he and Lopez took a 4-1 lead in the opening set. Kimball claimed the next four games in succession before the two Buffaloes pulled it out in a tiebreaker. But in the end, it was Vazquez who came up with the clutch plays.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Fontana said. “He definitely stepped up and raised his game in key moments when he was the guy they were picking on. He more than held his own.”

As did Ma against Chun, who finished 18-0 in the VOL. While their previous two matches during the regular season were also well contested, Thursday’s bout was decided in three sets.

“I was close the other times, too.,” Ma said. “Either one of those could have went a third (set) and it did here. But he’s a good player. It’s going to take practice, practice, practice to get over that hump.”

Said Fontana: “I think it just shows how far he has progressed from last year. A few things happen here and there for him and he could have actually won that match.”

The singles and doubles finalists move on to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Tournament, which takes place next Thursday and Friday at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville.

Manteca also opens the SJS Division II Team Tournament next Tuesday.

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