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Its an all-Kimball VOL final as Mantecas best skip singles tourney
TEN--VOL Tournament pic 1
Manteca Highs Gino Mercado stretches for the backhand attempt in his second-round match with Kent Balacy of Weston Ranch during the Valley Oak League Singles Tournament held at Manteca on Tuesday. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Yok Jing Ma won’t get another crack at Kimball standout Garrett Chun.

Surprisingly, Ma and fellow Manteca senior Mike Lopez opted not to participate in Tuesday’s Valley Oak League Singles Tournament hosted at Manteca High. With two of the league’s most seasoned players out of the picture, the top-seeded Chun not-so surprisingly cruised through three rounds and will face teammate Logan Le in the finals Thursday. It’s the first time in four years that a Manteca player won’t be in the singles championship.

Only three Manteca area players advanced as far as the quarterfinals. East Union’s Andrew Rossette, the eighth seed, squeaked past Michael Cervantes of Weston Ranch 9-8 (3) and lost to Chun, 1-6, 0-6.

Over the past two years, Ma has been the only player in league to challenge Chun, a junior who can be a four-time VOL singles champion by the time his prep career is over. Last week, Manteca beat Kimball in their final regular-season dual match to clinch the outright team title, and Ma nearly pulled out his first win over Chun but again came up empty handed 5-7, 5-7. Both Ma and Lopez were defeated by Chun in last year’s VOL tournament, as they wound up second and third, respectively.Manteca coach Frank Fontana said Ma badly wanted a rematch, but both Ma and Lopez were envisioning what they could achieve together past the league tournaments. They’ll be a formidable pair in Thursday’s VOL Doubles Tournament, which will be held at Manteca Regional Tennis Center. The two singles finalists qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Tournament and are ineligible to compete in doubles, which would have likely been the case for Ma or Lopez.Lopez was part of the winning VOL tandem a season ago but will have an even better partner to roll with it.

“Some thought went into it,” Fontana said. “They’ve grown up together, it’s their senior year and they want to go out with a bang. They have bigger goals than VOL singles. We’ve talked about it since the beginning of the year; it wasn’t something that was just brought up yesterday.

“It’s actually not unprecedented. In my first year of coaching (2006) the top two players from Sonora didn’t play singles and teamed up for doubles. It hasn’t happened since.”

Until now.

As a duo, Lopez and Ma can legitimately make a run at a section title. And with them sidelined Tuesday, Fontana believes his team may be stronger going into the SJS Division III team tourney, which begins May 4.Manteca’s Nos. 3-5 players — Gino Mercado, Nolan Osborn and Kyle Thornburg — were thrown into the fire with the rest of the league’s best, and although none of them made it out of the quarterfinals Fontana was pleased with their efforts.

The unseeded Osborn edged Lathrop’s Chris Consul 9-7 in the opening round and defeated Adam Searle of Sierra 8-2 to reach the quarters, where was swept by Le, 0-6, 0-6.

Mercado blanked East Union’s Kevin Flores in the first round, took out Weston Ranch’s Kent Balacy 8-3 in the second and held his own in a three-set loss to second-seeded Conor Fenton, 4-6, 6-1, 2-6.

Thornburg ousted Albert Hoang of Lathrop 8-0 and put up a fight against No. 4 Nick Reilley of Kimball in a 5-8 setback.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Fontana said. “When you start the day with your No. 3, 4 and 5 players and two of them make the quarterfinals that says something. And two of them are second-year tennis players. That really demonstrates the depth of the team. Sometimes the middle-to-bottom guys don’t get a lot of credit but on other schools they’d be No. 1s.

“Having them play this qualify of players before the team tournament is huge. They’re going to be playing in spots where they aren’t going to see the type of players they saw today.”