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Buffs claim outright title but hungry for more
TEN--Kimball-Manteca pic 2
Dhillon Patel gets set to return the shot as Manteca No. 2 doubles partner Edvin Pepic looks on. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/ The Bulletin

Manteca High’s boys tennis team secured sole possession of the Valley Oak League crown in its regular-season finale on Tuesday, but 10th-year head coach Frank Fontana and the Buffaloes aren’t satisfied yet.

The Sac-Joaquin Section created a third division for the team tennis playoffs, giving squads like Manteca a better shot at earning a postseason title after having to compete with larger-school powerhouses from the Sacramento area for many years.

“This is one step to our goal, we want to keep going as a team,” Fontana said after Manteca’s 6-3 win over Kimball. “All the guys’ hard work is paying off but we’re not done yet.”

Surely the Buffaloes (14-0 VOL, 17-3 overall) took some pleasure in knocking off the team it shared the title with a year ago. It’s the first outright championship seized by Manteca since it went undefeated in 2012, and sixth overall under Fontana. Fourth-year players Yok Jing Ma and Mike Lopez have been part of three of those title runs.

“Not many people get to see how much hard work these guys put in the court but I see it and it shows,” Fontana said. “I hope they are all extremely proud of themselves and this VOL championship.”

Ma has a chance earn one for himself in the near future. On Tuesday he had his most competitive match with two-time defending VOL singles titlist Garret Chun, who held off Ma 7-5, 7-5. The two dueled in last year’s tournament finale.

“Yok Jing was close but just couldn’t get over the hump,” Fontana said. “Kimball came to play today and they didn’t want to lose, you could tell. They are a tough match for us since their top four singles are so tough, but we at Manteca pride ourselves on the depth of our team.”

Lopez came through at the No. 2 singles spot, sweeping Nick Reilley, 6-3, 6-0. No. 5 Kyle Thornburg also prevailed 6-1, 6-1, and No. 6 Spencer Jackson defeated Paul de Supinski in the only three-set outcome, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.

Manteca’s doubles teams punctuated the win with sweeps. Yok Eyh Ma and Si Hao Tang upended Josh Linsangan and Bert Yu 7-5, 6-4 in the battle of No. 1 tandems. Edvin Pepic and Dhillon Patel won 6-2, 6-4, while Yayha Shabbar and Matt Pabla dominated, 6-0, 6-2.

Manteca hosts the VOL Tournament next Tuesday and Thursday.