Yok Eyh Ma said there were “a mix of emotions” having to face his younger brother, Yok Whai, in the Valley Oak League Doubles Tournament title round pitting Manteca High teammates on Thursday.
And emotions ran high at different moments throughout the event at Manteca Regional Tennis Center, where the singles championship between Manteca sophomore Solman Aniss and Kimball’s Logan Le also took place.
Le, the runner-up a year ago, rallied late to dispatch Aniss in three sets. In the thrilling doubles finale Yok Eyh Ma and Dhillon Patel needed a third set to edge Yok Whai and Si Hao Tang.
But a heated moment early in a doubles semifinal briefly became the focus of the tournament. Yok Whai Ma and Tang were leading 1-0 against the defending doubles champions and top-seeded tandem from Central Catholic.
The Central Catholic players and a few of their supporters voiced their displeasure over line calls made by their opponents. During the fracas, one of the players directed what many deemed to be an inappropriate remark to the Manteca duo.
“Why don’t you open your eyes! Oh wait …,” he said. Ma and Tang are of Asian descent.
Tournament director and Weston Ranch athletic director Jason Furtado heard the comment as he paced toward the court to serve as a line judge. He halted the match and made phone calls to confer with other athletic directors from the VOL, including Central Catholic’s Billy Hylla.
After a break in action lasting nearly half an hour, Furtado disqualified the Central Catholic pair just as Yok Eyh Ma and Patel were wrapping up their 6-1, 6-2 sweep of Oakdale’s Daniel Lubeck and Zack Miller.
Manteca coach Frank Fontana declined to comment about the ruling and the events leading up to it, choosing instead to praise the efforts of his finalists.
“It’s not the first year we’ve had multiple players in the finals but it’s not easy to do,” Fontana said. “The guys played really well and stayed focused. Their hard work paid off.”
Yok Ehy Ma and Patel nipped their fellow Buffaloes, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. It was a gratifying result for the two seniors after they placed third to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Tournament a year ago. This year, only the finalists from the VOL singles and doubles tournaments move on.
It’s typical for “super doubles” teams — comprising of two players who competed in singles all season — to earn doubles titles, making Patel a rarity. He was a member of the No. 1 doubles team for Manteca this season and has never competed as a singles player in his four years with the program.
“I think my doubles experience helped out, but Yok and I have gotten better since last year,” Patel said. “Last year we lost in the first round (of the section tourney) so we’re hoping to go deeper into it.”
Yok Eyh Ma was understandably conflicted when battling against his sibling.
“As his older brother I’m proud of how well he’s playing,” Yok Eyh said. “He’s only a sophomore and this is only his second year of playing tennis. At the same time I didn’t want to hold back either because first place was something I really wanted.”
Tang gets to compete in the section tournament after losing the third-place match to Ma and Dhillon last year and forfeiting his competitive singles semifinal match with Le on Tuesday.
The SJS Division II Tournament takes place May 15-16 at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. Joining the two Manteca doubles teams is Aniss, who will make his second appearance. He dropped a 2-6, 6-4, 1-6 decision to Le, who has beaten him in three competitive matches this season.
“I would say the third set was a lot closer than on paper, but I just didn’t convert well on the deuce points that mattered,” Aniss said. “He played better in the clutch moments. He’s very consistent. He waits for his opponent to make the error and it works.”
Before the section’s singles and doubles tournaments in the SJS Division III team tennis playoffs, which starts next Monday with an out-bracket match between Kimball and Los Banos. Manteca, the VOL champion, plays host to River Valley of Yuba City in the opening round on Wednesday.
“Although I lost today I feel that I played better than I did the first two times I lost to (Le),” Aniss said. “I have confidence going into the team playoffs. I’m hoping that it will help because to me the team dynamic is more important than competing individually.”