MODESTO — That frustrating end to the Valley Oak League season is long forgotten.
Manteca found its mojo in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after placing third in league and failing to make the postseason a year ago.
The Buffaloes redeemed themselves Tuesday, avenging a previous loss to Oakdale with a 7-2 victory in the Division IV final at Modesto Junior College. They collected their second SJS banner after winning the 2017 Division III crown.
In the final week of league, Manteca (11-5) lost to first-place Central Catholic and runner-up Oakdale. Central squares off with Vista del Lago in the D3 final today.
“We got the one that matters,” Manteca’s Kurtis Ma said. “I’m so excited to win it again, it’s the second time for me. And to get it as a senior on my last match, I’m glad to end it on a high note.”
The No. 2 singles player is one of just four seniors on the team, three of whom were part of the 2017 run. Ma defeated Frankie Dutra, 6-1, 6-1.
Solman Aniss, the Buffaloes’ fourth-year No. 1 player, said this one may be sweeter than the first.
“Our team my sophomore year was brilliant,” he said. “This year we have three guys playing tennis for the first time, and that coupled with the fact that we didn’t roll through league like we did my sophomore year I think makes this win all the more meaningful to us. This win is more impressive in some ways.”
After sweeping Liam Peters 6-0, 6-1, Aniss immediately paced up and down the courts to see how his teammates were faring.
Ryan Foo (2-6, 1-6) and Kiersten Melan/Jordan Navales (1-6, 1-6) had fallen at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles, but Manteca still had the upper hand.
Senior Harshawn Singh (6-3, 6-0) and Nick Pio (6-0, 6-4) took care of business against Mark Chavez and Jimmy Homer at Nos. 4 and 5 singles, respectively, leaving it up to any of the final three matches.
It was the No. 1 doubles team of Kevin Lin and Ravpreet Grewal that clinched the fifth point, holding off Oakdale’s Teo Diaz and Shivam Mistry, 6-3, 7-5. Lin is the third two-time section champion on the team.
“It was a good way to end it,” Lin said. “It was really gratifying for us to win it when it really counts.”
The rest was a formality.
Kayson Neduvakkattu wrapped up the No. 6 singles match with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Zach Nelson. And in the only contest to reach a third set, No. 3 doubles partners Spencer Ogden and Julian Gosal beat Hayden Hill and Aiden Rodrigues, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
“We played a lot of competitive matches in league and I think that really helped us,” Aniss said. “We just had to look pass our past struggles. We came out strong in the playoffs.”
Manteca coach Frank Fontana was impressed with the poise his players showed on the big stage.
“If you would have told me about a month ago that this is where we’d be, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “It’s definitely out of the blue. I always knew we had the talent; I didn’t know if we would have the ‘it’ factor.
“In these last three matches we definitely had the ‘it’ factor. We were mentally tough, we were focused and we deserved to win.”