MaryAnn Tolbert was admittedly nervous going into the start of Manteca’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title defense Wednesday.
It didn’t take long for the Buffaloes to put their coach at ease, as the No. 1-seeded squad in the bracket trounced visiting El Capitan of Merced, 8-1. It was Manteca’s first match against a non-league opponent since Aug. 31, and the Buffs (17-1) dominated Valley Oak League competition en route to their fourth championship in six years.
Under the new postseason format, they’ll be facing teams they are completely unfamiliar with. They’ll next take on No. 4 Florin or No. 5 Mira Loma in the semifinal round next Tuesday.
“It’s nerve-wracking going back for a second shot at it,” Tolbert said. “I feel there’s a lot of pressure, but I have to say the girls are very relaxed and they appear to be focused in practice. They’re comfortable with it, but the coaches are a little more stressed.”
Two-time defending Central California Conference singles champion Jenasis Yarrell, a sophomore, accounted for El Capitan’s only win, a 6-2, 6-0 sweep of Julia Tang. For Tang, it was her first live match since sustaining an ankle injury that knocked her out of the VOL Singles Tournament semifinals last week.
“The fact that I enjoy playing motivates me to play hurt or not hurt, but it’s also about the team,” Tang said. “She’s obviously way more advanced than I am in tennis, but I think it’s about learning how to cope with different players. With her it was a nice experience to hit with her. It was an honor.”
Koryn Menasco fended off a tough challenge from Riddhi Parikh in the No. 2 singles match, winning, 6-2, 6-4. Taylor Corona (6-0, 6-1), Makenna Condit (6-4, 6-0), Sahiba Kaur (6-0, 6-1) and Stephanie Mercardo (6-0, 6-0) produced routine victories.
“Koryn had probably one of her best matches, even though she might not think so,” Tolbert said. “That girl liked to hit and Koryn was able to hit really well with her, so that bodes well for us going forward.”
VOL doubles champions Rav Dhillon and Navinna Mann continued their undefeated streak for the season in a 6-0, 6-1 triumph over Karen Godinez and Anna Gueorguieva. From the No. 2 doubles spot, Julianne Eavenson and Kaileah Johannson overcame some early trouble to beat Meagan Bower and Kyla Villarama, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Noeli Mercado and Melissa Poncini capped off the day with a 6-4, 6-1 win.
“Rav and Navina excelled last week and they come out today and took care of business,” Tolbert said.