Yok Jing Ma and Mike Lopez went out in style — and as Valley Oak League champions.
The Manteca High seniors defeated Kimball’s Ivan Acosta and Nick Reilley 6-1, 6-4 in the VOL Doubles Tournament finals Thursday at Manteca Regional Tennis Center. It’s the third doubles title for Ma, who was part of winning tandems his freshman and sophomore years, and the second for Lopez, last year’s champion along with Alex Vazquez.
“It’s nice to finish out senior year winning with my boy,” Lopez said.
Longtime friends, both Ma and Lopez chose not to enter Tuesday’s singles tournament to be eligible as partners for the doubles competition. Kimball standout Garrett Chun earned his thirds straight league championship in the singles finale Thursday, topping teammate Logan Le, 6-1, 6-1.
“I wanted to play him again, of course,” Ma said of Chun. Chun beat Ma in three sets to capture the 2014 singles crown, and Ma was twice competitive against him in league dual matches this season.
The possibility of winning a Sac-Joaquin Section title was too alluring, however. Realistically, Ma and Lopez would be outgunned by more seasoned opponents in the SJS Division II Singles Tournament.
“A section championship would be amazing,” said Ma, who advanced to the section doubles semifinal with Angel Tejada two years ago. “We play doubles together quite often, but we have to work harder in practice. There’s always something to work on.”
Manteca, the league’s team champion, had all three of its doubles duos reach the quarterfinals, but Ma and Lopez were the only ones from the area to make the semis. Gino Mercado and Nolan Osborn took Acosta and Reilley to a third set before falling, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6. Kyle Thornburg and Yok Eyh Ma lost to Central Catholic’s eventual third-place finishers, Conor Fenton and Chris Huber, 1-6, 6-5.
After a first-round bye, the top-seeded Lopez-Ma pair dispatched Lathrop’s Chris Consul and Albert Hoang 8-4; East Union’s Gerardo Romero and Hector Romero 8-1; and Oakdale’s Shane Baxter and Octavio Padilla6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals.
Lopez and Ma have experience as doubles partners having won offseason tournaments together. They’ve also been tested plenty by their coaches, Frank Fontana and Beto Lopez-Ellis, in practice. Their differing skills and close-knit friendship make them a formidable twosome.
“He’s the confident hard hitter and I (provide) the solid defense,” Lopez said. “We balance each other out, pretty much.”
Lopez lauds Ma for making the tough decision to skip the singles tournament to team up with him. So when Ma texted him Wednesday night with a crazy idea he let him have his way.
For their first two matches Thursday they wore their eighth-grade graduation t-shirts from Woodward Elementary School. In the semifinals they donned their old team shirts from their freshman and sophomore years before finishing it out with the 2015 garb.
“I thought of it and he went along with it,” Ma said. “It was cute.”
They’re not done with singles play just yet. The SJS Division III Team Tournament begins with an out-bracket match on May 4, with the Buffaloes likely beginning the day after. On May 7-8 is the SJS Division II Individual Tournament at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville.