Katie Kim has just joined a very exclusive club, one that hasn’t welcomed a new member in nearly 40 years.
The Manteca High junior is the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II singles champion after squeaking past top-seeded Clarissa Sutami of Vista del Lago, 3-6, 7-5, 10-8 Friday at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. Sutami went down swinging, hitting an aggressive shot into the net on the clinching point for Kim.
“At first I couldn’t even process it because I was not the expected winner of the match,” the No. 3-seeded Kim said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was kind of screaming, and I looked at my coaches and they were screaming, too.”
Accompanying her were Manteca High head coach MaryAnn Tolbert and assistant Beto Lopez.
Kim is just the third player from her school and the city to capture an individual section title for tennis, following former Buffaloes Ranata Scholl (1982) and Lynn Henderson (1983). Katie Gaynor finished as the runner-up in 1987 and was the last singles player from Manteca to reach the Section final.
“This doesn’t happen very often, and if you ask people at the school they probably wouldn’t even know there’s an individual Section tournament for tennis,” Tolbert said. “Katie is a legend, and she has more to do at Manteca High. It’s really exciting.”
Kim had already medaled at the Section tourney; two years ago as a freshman she and former teammate Sahiba Kaur placed second in doubles.
“I really didn’t want to take second again,” Kim said.
Kim opened with sweeps of Mountain House’s Subha Patel (6-3, 6-1) and Vanden’s Maya Khanna (6-2, 6-2) on Thursday but felt that she did not play to her capabilities. On Friday, she was on the front foot during her semifinal against Libby Griggs of Americano. Kim won the first 6-1 before her opponent withdrew.
“I was getting nervous for today because I played awful (on Thursday),” Kim said. “But this morning I actually got to warm up with my coach (Lopez) and I played really well in the semifinal. I was feeling confident from that going into the final match.”
While confident, Kim struggled out the gate against Sutami in the title round but was able to turn it around with more aggressive play.
“She’s a very solid player,” Kim said. “She’s consistent and knows how to place balls and when to finish it. I was struggling because I was letting her push me back and play more defensively rather than stepping up and attacking. My coach told me to just play how you always do and swing through the ball.”
And now she can add another achievement to her expanding collection, which includes the SJS Division III title from 2019 as well as the Valley Oak League singles crown she captured last week.
“I feel really good about it, especially because I don’t know if I’m going to have another chance to win a Section title before I graduate,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it on my own (as a singles player), but I did.”