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Barragan sweeps to key Mantecas win
Manteca’s Xavier Lopez returns a volley. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Two undefeated records fell Wednesday at East Union High’s tennis courts.

But one still stands.

Manteca put the finishing touches on its 7-0 mark in the first half of the Valley Oak League season with a 10.5-4.5 victory over the host Lancers.

East Union is now 5-2 and sits in third place behind Manteca and 6-1 Ceres, but after winning just two league matches last year the Lancers have certainly caught the attention of the usual contending teams.

“I knew they were good, but I didn’t know how good,” said Manteca coach Frank Fontana. “East Union is better than I thought.

“They definitely are a quality team that could beat any team in our league without a doubt. They are going to be a tough team to deal with in the second half of league. They’ve improved so much.”

East Union’s No. 1 doubles team and Manteca’s No. 2 were on a collision course to lock horns for a battle of unbeatens, but both dropped their first sets before meeting each other.

The difference of the match was the play of No. 2 singles Alex Barragan, the only player to win all three of his sets.

After defeating Ricky Peloso 6-3, Barragan picked up a big 7-5 win over EU’s No. 1 Sean Hilscher. Hilscher is one of the VOL’s biggest hitters but is nursing a sore shoulder, which took a little steam off his shots.

Barragan strategically tested Hilscher’s backhand game to fight back from a 1-4 deficit.

“I just restarted and thought it was 0-0,” Barragan said. “I started playing the way I should have been playing all along.”

Barragan finished the day with a routine 6-1 win over Steve Shepherd, but by then the team victory had already been clinched thanks in large part to his clutch triumph against Hilscher.

“That was a huge momentum swing,” Fontana said. “Once he won we felt pretty good going into the last round of matches. Barragan dominated today, and that’s what we needed. He stepped up.”

Manteca’s No. 3 Marc Leon picked up a pair of 6-2 wins, and Alex McAdams chipped in a 6-1 win. Peloso led East Union with 6-2 and 7-6 victories, while Hilscher cruised to a 6-2 win in the No. 1 match.

Manteca won three of the four doubles sets. Ariel Rossete and Marcos Aleman scored the only doubles win for EU, upsetting previously undefeated Xavier Lopez and Marcus Munoz, 10-7.

East Union’s top tandem of Matt Eichsteadt and Chris Garcia was dealt its first loss by a 7-10 score against Max Angelo and Oral Nunis. Eichsteadt-Garcia later fell to Lopez-Munoz, 10-6.

Angelo-Nunis beat Rossete-Aleman, 10-2.

“We have no excuses, Manteca just beat us,” East Union coach Ron Bylow said. “Did we play like we can play? No, but Manteca had a lot to do with that.

“There was some pressure playing against the No. 1 team in the league, and our guys need to learn how to play under that pressure.”

The VOL begins the second half of league today with East Union heading to Sonora. Manteca has a bye. League contests will shift from a round-robin format to the standard best-of-three sets. Instead of 15 team points at stake, there will now be just five.

“That plays to some teams’ advantage, so we’ll have to play it out and see what happens,” Bylow said.