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Buffs begin D-III title defense with shutout win
Manteca High

What will it take for the Manteca High girls tennis team to earn another Sac-Joaquin Section III crown?

“Dedication and hard work,” said senior Melissa Poncini.

She’s been part of the Buffaloes’ current success that consists of a pair of section championships (2016 and 2018) not to mention a fourth straight Valley Oak League title.

The quest for a return to section finals began Monday with Manteca (20-1) cleaning up on visiting Merced of the Central California Conference, 9-0.

The key ingredient missing from this first-round victory, according to Buffaloes coach Mary Ann Tolbert, was the intensity.

“We can’t just assume that teams are going to roll over for us,” she said.

Poncini along with her No. 1 doubles partner Kaileah Johannson took care of Merced’s top duo of Emily Featherstone and Serendity Burelson in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.

“Communication is really big (when playing doubles),” said Poncini, who relishes that part of the game during competition.

She’s played doubles all four years at Manteca.

The Buffaloes’ No. 2 pairing of Isabella Huerta and Danielle Diaz won in similar fashion, besting the Bears’ Bianca Trindale and Natalia Robinson in two sets, 6-2, 6-1.

Amorina Tse and Heather Pang, Manteca’s No. 3 doubles team, closed out the opening-round playoff match by defeating Jessie Mendoza and Jenny Vega-Santos, 6-0, 6-2.

In singles, Katie Kim, who is the Buffaloes’ top player, took care of Kate Colvin in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.

Manteca’s No. 2 singles player Ellie Kim defeated Denise Papilota, 6-0, 6-1, while her teammate Sahiba Kaur disposed on Merced’s No. 3 Laura Ness, 6-0, 6-1.

The Buffaloes’ No. 3 player Kerren Zou rolled past Rhea Mishra in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1.

Yanki Ma blanked Merced’s No. 4 player Zoe Hayes, 6-0, 6-0.

Kalissa Martin, who is Manteca’s No. 5 singles player, defeated Megan Workman in two sets, 6-3, 6-0.

The Buffaloes advanced to Wednesday’s semi-final playoff match. They’ll play the No. 1 CCC team, Golden Valley, beginning at 2 p.m.