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Mantecas Nunis, Lopez to square off for title; Ma wins Flight 2
Manteca Highs Michael Lopez keeps his focus on the ball as he returns it to Paul Perrone of Oakdale in the semifinal round of the Valley Oak League Singles Tournament in Tracy. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Manteca High tennis coach Frank Fontana is not looking forward to the Valley Oak League’s championship singles match.

That’s because two of his own players will duke it out for the title Thursday at Kimball High.

On Tuesday, Oral Nunis and freshman Michael Lopez both made surprising runs to the finals, and fellow Buffalo Yok-Jing Ma prevailed as the Flight 2 champion after defeating teammate Chris Kloska, 8-6.

The second flight is made up of No. 3-6 singles players, and three out of the four semifinalists represented Manteca High.

Kloska edged out top-seeded Jacob Webb 9-7 in a heated all-Buffalo semifinal. Fontana dreaded every second of it and expects much of the same come Thursday.

“When we have big matches involving guys from our own team it’s never a pleasant occasion for me,” Fontana said. “I know I should be happy, but somebody is going to lose. All year we support each other as a team, but when we get to this point it’s an awkward dynamic.

“When two of my players are playing each other it takes me out of the equation as a coach. I’m more of a spectator, but I’m probably not going to be watching very much of it Thursday.”

The last time he had to endure an all-Buffalo finale was in when brothers Mostafa and Yassen Aniss dueled in 2008.

By winning the second flight, Ma joins Flight 1 semifinalists Sukhman Singh, Paul Perrone, Nunis and Lopez on the all-league team. The semifinalists of Thursday’s doubles tournament also earn all-league honors. Finalists qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Tournament (May 3-4, Johnson Ranch Racquet Club, Roseville), so Thursday won’t be the end for Nunis and Lopez no matter what happens.

The third-seeded Nunis teetered on the brink of elimination in his well-contested semifinal against Weston Ranch’s Singh, who upset No. 2-seeded Forrest Tolman of Sierra 8-3 in the opening round.

Singh took the first set 6-4 and held match point with a 40-love lead while ahead 5-4 in the second set. Nunis battled back to win 7-5 and coasted 6-2 in the third.

“His ball didn’t really have much pace so it took me a while to get used to it,” said Nunis, who, as Manteca’s top singles player, didn’t play Weston Ranch’s No. 2 in the regular season. “I’m just happy to get to the finals. It’s exciting getting to play our little freshman. Should be fun.”

Lopez proved to be more than just “the little freshman” Tuesday. He had the tougher road to the final round starting with Sonora’s Josh Smith — the tournament’s No. 1 seed who went undefeated in VOL team duals. Lopez won the eight-game pro set, 8-3.

“It was probably my most stressful match of the year,” Lopez said. “He’s beaten our No. 1 (Nunis) twice and I haven’t even beaten our No. 1.”

Lopez thinks he has a chance on Thursday.

“My game has developed a lot since my last challenge match with Oral,” he said.

Lopez also beat Sonora’s Andrew Klatt 6-3, 6-1 and Perrone of Oakdale, 6-3, 6-4. Nunis opened with an 8-1 victory over Kimball’s Andrew Dalupan and took out Oakdale’s Jared Firstbrook 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

“Our three guys who made the semifinals in the second flight went undefeated in league, so I expected them to make it that far,” Fontana said. “Even though Oral was seeded 3 and Mike was arguably the best No. 2 player in the first flight, I am a little surprised that they are going to be facing each other in the finals.

“They are both quality players, but in tournaments like this a lot has to go your way to have two players from the same school meet each other in the end.”