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Manteca defeats River City for 1st section title
TEN--River City-Manteca pic 1
With fourth-year player Gladis Sandoval clutching the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship banner, Manteca teammates Monica Lozano, from left, Stephania Mercado, Julianne Eavenson, Makenna Condit and Prerna Singh pose for a selfie after the Buffaloes downed River City 7-2 in the title round Wednesday at Oak Park Tennis Center. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Taylor Corona’s match was nerve-wracking enough.

Her coach wasn’t much help.

Manteca coach MaryAnn Tolbert informed her top player that the team needed to secure just one more win to claim the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title Wednesday under the lights of Oak Park Tennis Center. The Buffaloes were well ahead of River City, 4-1.

“She came onto my court and was like, ‘Go get the fifth win’ and then left,” Corona said. “It was really stressful.”

It was a race to five between Corona and No. 4 singles player Stephania Mercado, who appeared to be closer to locking it up. Corona got there first, holding off Mallory Snarr 6-2, 6-4 before teammates stormed the court.

Manteca wound up with an emphatic 7-2 victory and its first section title.

“It’s amazing,” Corona said. “Our school has never done this before.”

Koryn Menasco did her part in the No. 2 singles match, defeating Kari Tran 6-2, 6-4. Not long after, the No. 1 doubles team of Navina Mann and Rav Dhillon knocked off Sofia Stoltz and Steffi Campos 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 for the fourth point.

“Taylor played the match of her match today and Koryn came through huge for us,” Tolbert said. “Every point counted. We honestly thought it was going to be 5-4 one way or the other, so 7-2 is pretty nice.”

Julia Tang won at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-3 over Karen Lee. Julianne Eavenson and Noeli Mercado took down Melanie Gonzalez and Laura Garcia, 6-1, 7-4.

The longest match of the night was between Manteca No. 6 Makenna Condit and River City’s Tastasia Desean-Concepcion. The championship already belonged to the Buffaloes (19-1) at this point, but Condit was fighting to keep her record perfect for the season. She won the marathon, 7-5, 6-3.

River City (24-4), the Division III runner-up for a third straight year, got its first point from No. 3 doubles partners Chloe Looc and Mikaela Firmacion, who defeated Monica Lozano and Prerna Singh, 6-4, 6-4. Lauren Dela Rosa outlasted Manteca’s Gladis Sandoval, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

The loss mattered little to Sandoval, one of just two seniors on the team and lone four-year player.

“I don’t see it as just an individual sport,” Sandoval said. “If you lose individually you have to move on and cheer for the rest of the team, which happened for me today. I didn’t think of my loss as a bad thing, what we did as a team overall mattered more. 

“I always knew our team was capable but to actually see it come to reality is pretty crazy.”

Tolbert may be pinching herself for a while.

Winning a third Valley Oak League championship in five years along with the school’s first team title is one thing, but doing so in such dominant fashion without star players is another. The Buffaloes went undefeated in the VOL and continued to coast through the postseason, drubbing River Valley 9-0 and Western Athletic Conference champion Los Banos 7-2 along the way.

It could be more of the same in the coming years.

“It’s unbelievable,” Tolbert said. “At the beginning of the season I did not see this. As we got closer we kept thinking we’re going to end up being shy a point or two at some point. 

“It has been an amazing season, and the fact that we’re only going to lose two girls (to graduation) it’s exciting.”