ELK GROVE — Feeling confident, Danielle Diaz planned her post-match celebration with No. 3 doubles teammate Isabella Huerta.
“Before the third set I told Bella that when we win, I’m going to run and jump into your arms after I finish it,” Diaz said. “That’s what we did, we finished it off.”
Little did they know they also provided the fifth and clinching point for Manteca in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final against top-seeded Mira Loma at Laguna Creek Racquet Club on Wednesday. Diaz punctuated her match with two overhead smashes, and the No. 2 Buffaloes went on to win, 5-4.
Diaz and Huerta came from behind to beat Mira Loma’s Prachi Sood and Lynn Yang, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Manteca prevailed in four of five singles matches and needed to win just one of the remaining four contests to secure its second section championship in three years. Manteca’s No. 2 doubles team of Yanki Ma and Kalissa Martin lost 6-4, 1-6, 2-6 to Faith Chen and Krishni Satchi but joined in celebration with Diaz and Huerta just moments later.
“It’s amazing,” Huerta said. “I love having her as my partner and I didn’t think we’d be here at the end of the year.”
The two juniors have been part of the team the past three seasons but were not on the starting 12 in the Buffaloes’ previous final-round appearances. Manteca, which made its third straight section final, capped its perfect season with a 19-0 record.
“It’s a different year and these are different kids,” Manteca coach MaryAnn Tolbert said, comparing her two section championship teams. “We’ve had to work and make adjustments this whole year. We graduated five excellent players last year and started from scratch over the summer. This is almost a brand-new team from two years ago.”
Team captain Makenna Condit, one of four Manteca seniors, had been there, done that and it showed. She quickly vanquished Tanu Jain 6-0, 6-2 at No. 4 singles to even the team score at 1-1. Mira Loma standout Jasjot Sandhu had already beaten Julia Tang, 6-0, 6-1.
“Coming in a lot of the underclassmen had the nerves, but I’ve been here before so I knew exactly what I needed to do,” Condit said. “Coming back for my senior year, I know what it’s like to win (the section final) and I know what it’s like to lose, and I knew which one I wanted to feel again. It’s the best feeling in the world getting to win it twice and to be able to win it going out.”
A pair of sophomores followed with straight-set wins to give Manteca the lead. No. 3 Ellie Kim swept Leeza Axelrod 6-1, 6-2, and No. 2 Sahiba Kaur defeated Juju Hafften, 6-3, 6-2. No. 6 Kerren Zou then put the finishing touches on her 6-1, 6-3 victory over Amy Li.
Navina Mann retired early in the second set of the No. 5 matchup. She battled Riya Shergill for about an hour and a half in the opening set, falling 6-7 (4-7). Mann lost the first game in the second set before bowing out.
With the victory already in hand for the Buffaloes, No. 1 doubles partners Noeli Mercado and Melissa Poncini played out the remainder of their match. Mira Loma’s Linhdan Nguyen and Neha Shetty overcame a 5-4 deficit in the final set and won 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
“I’m so proud of them,” Tolbert said of her team’s achievement. “I would say no one thought we’d be here. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.”