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EU tandem mounts surprising run to doubles title
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Ashley Duenas had never competed in a doubles match over her four-year varsity career at East Union.

Klassey Kachalkin played doubles for three years but transitioned to singles this season.

At Columbia College in Sonora Thursday, the unlikely pair made an unlikely run to the Valley Oak League Doubles Tournament championship, mounting come-from-behind wins over a Sierra tandem and Manteca duo in the process.

Duenas and Kachalkin split their first two sets 1-6, 6-4 in a semifinal match against Sierra’s Imahni Burks and Naomi Nunis and won a 10-2 super tiebreaker to advance.

In the title round they squared off with Manteca High’s Wendy Lin and Rosa Zou, prevailing, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win.

“It’s what sports is all about,” East Union coach Julia Bylow said. “You never know until it’s over who is going to pull ahead on any given day. Just when you thought they were out of it they came back to win a point and change the momentum.

“When you’re the underdog the pressure is off of you. When they got to the finals we told they that we were proud of them no matter what the outcome.”

The tournament lasted a little over eight hours. The Lancer pair tore through the first three rounds with 8-1, 8-0 and 8-3 victories. They then edged out Sonora’s top two singles tandem of Meagan Holloway and Jade Mena — a favorite to win the tournament — in their final eight-game pro set, 8-8 (7-5 tiebreaker).

The Lin-Zou combination defeated eventual third-place finishers Margaret Maltese and Hannah Ankrom, both of Sonora, 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals. The top-three placers in the singles and doubles tournaments advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section II Tournament Nov. 3-4 at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville.

Weston Ranch Ranch’s Ly Hoang, Sierra’s Vannida Nguyen and Mena went 1-2-3 in the singles event.

Duenas is feeling the burn after playing four matches and finishing fourth in the VOL Singles Tournament on Tuesday.

“It feels really good after not being successful in singles, but physically I’m hurting right now,” said Duenas, adding that she hurt a shoulder during the singles tourney and pulled a thigh muscle Thursday.

“I’m used to playing alone, but playing with another person took some stress off me so it was really helpful,” she added.

For Kachalkin, it was a welcome change of pace to return to doubles after forming a reliable alliance with Shalane Jackson over the past three seasons. Jackson opted not to finish out her senior season before league play.

“It was fun to do it again,” Kachalkin said. “Ashley and I have a lot of good chemistry together. We didn’t take it too seriously and just went out and had fun.”