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TENNIS: Buffs stampede top-seeded Mountain House
Manteca will face VOL rival Oakdale in section final
Bulletin boys tennis 2019
Julian Gosal backhands it over the net as No. 3 doubles partner Spencer Ogden looks on. The Manteca tandem clinched the Buffaloes' 6-3 win over top-seeded Mountain House in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal on Friday. JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin
MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Automatic from the No. 1 spot all season, Solman Aniss was off his game Friday during Manteca’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal at top-seeded Mountain House.
Head coach Frank Fontana had reason for worry.
That’s because the No. 5 Buffaloes have had trouble of late closing out deciding matches, particularly from the lower rungs in the team’s ladder.
Aniss managed to overcome his struggles, and two battle-hardened doubles tandems came through to punctuate a 6-3 victory over the Western Athletic Conference’s outright champion. The win sets up an all-Valley Oak League final set for next Tuesday.
“Great result,” Fontana said. “A total team effort from top to bottom. We didn’t have our best effort out of Solman but then third doubles stepped up. If you would have told me before the match that it was going to come down to third doubles, I would have been a little worried, but those guys played outstanding. That’s huge for us.”
Manteca (10-5) won three out of the first five completed matches, all at singles. Kurtis Ma took care of Jonah Lingargen 6-2, 6-2 from the No. 2 spot, while fellow senior Harshawn Singh outlasted Karek Katam 6-1, 6-2 at No. 5. Kayson Neduvakkattu won at No. 6 6-2, 6-2 against Sri Namptoothin.
Aniss’ patience and fitness were tested as he slugged it out with Mountain House’s Rohith Kolli, prevailing, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
“He was brilliant defensively,” Aniss said of his opponent. “I couldn’t really hit too many winners on him, I just had to rely on him making errors. Kudos to him, he made me work and it was a good match.”
It has been a busy week for both Aniss and Ma, the reigning VOL doubles champions who went on place second in the SJS Division II Individual Tournament. Manteca opened the team playoffs Monday at Merced, then Aniss and Ma travelled to Roseville on Wednesday and Thursday for the individual tourney.
“I’m a little worn out but I had to get the job done — I know I have the weekend to rest,” Aniss said. “Even though we’ve had two long days of tennis I was still happy to be out here to contribute my part to the team.
Things were looking bleak for the Buffaloes early in the doubles matches, as all three of Mountain House’s duos staked early leads.
The No. 3 doubles team of Julian Gosal and Spencer Ogden came up with the clinching point, beating Ayush Sheth and Samarth Ramesh, 6-4, 6-4.
It was a sweet moment of redemption for Gosal, who had some tough singles losses in league play. On Monday, he and Ogden dropped a three-set decision in their first match together. Gosal said those experiences have only made him stronger.
“It allows us to be more ready for those longer games,” he said adding that he and Ogden have quickly formed a solid partnership on the court. “Going into those third sets taught us to be more disciplined, and you just have to want it more. Winning that last set comes down to that.”
Not long after Gosal and Ogden ended their match, No. 1 Kevin Lin and Ravpreet Grewal put the finishing touches on their 6-4, 6-4 sweep of Martin Tu and Kartek Arella.
Manteca will vie for its second section title — the Buffs claimed the 2017 Division crown — against Oakdale at a site yet to be determined. The two VOL rivals split their regular-season matches, and third-seeded Mustangs knocked off No. 2 Valley 5-4 in the other semifinal Friday.
The VOL has three teams in section finals, a league champ Central Catholic advanced to the Division III title match as the No. 3 seed. The Raiders will face Vista del Lago for a second straight year, looking to avenge their final-round loss in Division IV.
Manteca lost twice to Central Catholic in league, but both contests were highly competitive.
“I think the toughness of the VOL definitely helped us for the playoffs,” Fontana said. “I may have underestimated the quality of our league a little bit, but clearly those types of competitive matches made us match tough for these playoff matches.
“In reality, those tough losses told our guys that we need to get it together. We’re too good to have these sorts of results. We’re used to close matches and this time we came out on the other end of it. Maybe it was just our time.”