The Manteca Buffaloes opened the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championships with a matchup against the Solano County Athletic Conference’s No. 2 seeded squad, falling to Benicia High 5-4 on Tuesday.
The Buffaloes rolled out the welcome mats for Benicia as the higher seed of the two teams. Manteca expected the tight contest that was provided, but couldn’t snatch the final point to pull the match in its favor.
Manteca landed a pair of singles wins and two more wins in doubles play, but with close losses in at least two of the matches lost Manteca knows how close it came to continuing its season. The Buffaloes fought valiantly, but the lack of competitive balance in the Valley Oak League definitely plagued the team in its postseason opener.
“It was absolutely more intense,” Manteca head coach MaryAnn Tolbert said. “It shows a huge dip in our league because we never had a match closer than 7-2; and here we come out losing 5-4 but it could have gone either way.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the girls. These were good, quality opponents and we battled at every spot.”
Manteca got on the board early when Adaeze Nkwocha handled Benicia’s Lindsey Klein 6-3, 6-3. Nkwocha did not get off to a perfect start, but settled down and cruised to victory in straight sets.
“Since I did not have a very good season,” Nkwocha said. “So to meet up with an opponent who played at a high level I felt like I had something to prove. It’s sections and it’s a big thing for our program.
“I just wanted to try and hang in there and do my best.”
Manteca’s other win in singles action came from Wendy Lin, who bounced back from a first set loss for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win. Lin seemingly was two different players from the beginning of the match until the end. Her difficulties early in the match seemingly gave way to a powerful performance.
“It feels nice because I was so far down in that first set,” Lin said. “And I was really disappointed in myself because I wasn’t playing well. I turned it around when I thought that it was going to be a close match and it may come down to me.
“So I thought I need to at least get this point.”
Manteca also got doubles victories from Kaile Hunt and Liz Diaz (6-3, 6-2) and Elizabeth Tolbert and Katie Inderbitzin (4-6, 6-0, 10-6). Tolbert and Inderbitzin held the power to pull out the victory for the Buffaloes, but a final loss in singles play canceled their chances at victory.
Benicia will continue its season Monday when they travel to Los Banos to take on the Tigers in the tournament’s quarterfinals.