PATTERSON — With several of his players not competing in the Valley Oak League Tournament last week, Manteca head coach Frank Fontana was concerned his Buffaloes would show some rust in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first-round playoff match against Western Athletic Conference co-champion Patterson on Tuesday.
He had little reason for worry while the final matches were still in play, as Manteca advanced to the semifinal round with a decisive 8-1 victory.
“We haven’t played a team match in two-plus weeks,” Fontana said. “A lot of the guys haven’t been on the court against an opponent since April 12 — that’s a long break. And to come out and step up and play well is all you could ask for.”
The No. 3 doubles tandem of Cameron Gonzales and Jose Jimenez punctuated the win with a 2-6, 6-4, 10-6 comeback against Santi Zuleta and Estefan Cadena. Kurtis Ma and Rey Anaya prevailed at No. 2 doubles, 6-2, 6-4, clinching their win shortly before No. 6 singles player Matt Pabla outlasted Lolyn Tejeda, 6-4, 6-3.
“It’s huge just getting them in competitive matches that mean something rather than against their teammates in practice,” Fontana said. “There’s a certain level of stress that comes with that, and I can see that in the beginning during the opening stages of these matches that they were rusty. Our third doubles lost the opening set, came back and started playing much better toward the end.”
Freshman Solmon Aniss lost to Julian Ramirez 5-7, 3-6 in duel of No. 1s. The rest of the day belonged to the Buffaloes, who improved to 15-4. Kyle Thornburg (6-2, 6-1), Si Hao Tang (6-2, 6-3), Yok Eyh Ma (6-3, 6-1) and Lenard Gutierrez (6-2, 6-1) swept with little resistance. Dhillon Patel and Kevin Lin secured another point at No. 1 doubles with a 6-1, 6-2 win.
Aniss took third in the VOL Singles Tournament and will compete again Thursday in the SJS Division II Individual Tournament at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. Joining him are two super doubles teams; Ma and Patel upset No. 2-seeded Thornburg and Tang in the third-place match of the VOL Tournament, but all four will get to play Thursday after Kimball’s runner-up duo of Ivan Acosta and Josh Linsangan dropped out.
“It’s the perfect setup,” Fontana said. “As you advance in the playoffs everybody just gets better and better and the matches become more competitive. Now, our top five guys get to go up against some quality players, which should help us get even more ready for Monday.”
Tri-County Conference champion River City of West Sacramento welcomes Manteca next Monday in a rematch of their 2015 semifinal won by the Buffaloes, 5-4. Manteca went on to lose to Ceres 5-4 in the championship round. River City eliminated VOL No. 3 seed Central Catholic 7-2 in its opener Tuesday.
“Hopefully we can repeat, but they’re a tough team,” Fontana said. “They’re very deep and solid like us, but we have a much different team having lost our top four guys (to graduation). We know what they have coming back and hopefully we can match up well with them. If our top singles guys step up it could be a very competitive match against them.”