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Manteca celebrates first league title in 22 years in style
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Manteca Highs Kaile Hunt sends the ball back in front of No. 1 doubles teammate Liz Diaz. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

The torch was passed on the Manteca High tennis courts on Thursday.

Donna (Costa) Deleon, serving as honorary captain, joined the Lady Buffaloes for their Valley Oak League finale. She was a senior on the 1990 team that won a league championship.

Manteca hadn’t claimed one since — until now.

The Buffaloes completed a perfect run through league with a commanding 8-1 victory over Oakdale, which finishes in a second-place tie with Sierra. All three squads will represent the VOL in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Team Tournament.

“I’m a Manteca High grad — I’m all about the Buffaloes,” said sixth-year head coach MaryAnn Tolbert, who reached out to members of the 1990 team to take part in Thursday’s festivities. “These championships don’t come along very often, so the older these girls get the more they’re going to look back and appreciate what they achieved.

“My first year I went 0-14, and my second year I think we had two wins,” Tolbert added. “It takes a long time to develop a program, and it takes a lot of work and effort. Luckily we had girls who wanted to do it.”

One being top singles player Rosa Zou, who dispatched Kalkidan Curtis 6-3, 6-3 and enters next week’s VOL Tournament as one of the chief threats to undefeated Sierra standout Vannida Nguyen.

“It’s just proof that our hard work paid off,” Zou said. “Most of the seniors here are four-year members, and this was our reward. We’re dedicating ourselves to tennis. We don’t expect to lose that easily next year if we lose at all.”

Zou is part of a quartet of four-year Buffaloes, the others being Wendy and Weley Lin and No. 1 doubles player Kaile Hunt. The Lins and Hunt wrap up the league season undefeated. Wendy defeated Katie Odom 6-0, 6-3; Weley beat Nicole Nickens 6-3, 6-2 and Hunt was joined by Liz Diaz in their 6-0, 6-1 triumph over Rockelle Pablan and Alyssa Perigren.

“The girls, all 25 of them, are committed to tennis and they love to be out here,” Tolbert said. “They’re self-disciplined girls, and we have some of the highest GPAs on campus on this team. We have good kids.”

Jenny Yu, Adaeze Nkwocha and Noha Elabed are other seniors in Manteca’s regular starting lineup. Yu edged out Christine Winders 6-4, 7-5, and Elabed cruised 6-2, 6-0 against Taylor Kelly. Francesca Orvis accounted for Oakdale’s lone point with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Nkwocha in the No. 3 match.

The No. 2 doubles team Sealy McAdams and Julia Saling contributed a 6-2, 6-3 win. The all-freshman tandem of Katie Inderbitzin and Elizabeth Tolbert also swept 6-2, 7-5.

Coach Tolbert and the team came up with creative ways to be more competitive and build team chemistry over the past two seasons. For Thursday’s match, players and coaches made tie-dyed shirts to wear for competition. Previous matches featured accessories such as sunglasses with big hair bows, bandanas and war paint, and headbands, wristbands and legwarmers for “80s day.”

There is also a strong relationship with the school’s successful boys team, which went undefeated for its fourth league crown in Frank Fontana’s seventh year as head coach.

“We had the benefit of bringing the boys and girls teams to practice together over the summer,” Tolbert said. “The boys always come out and support us, and our girls come out to support them.

“We’ve done a lot to create a tennis program at Manteca High.”