MODESTO — Kaitlyn Rausa claimed her second Valley Oak League Singles Tournament title Thursday at Central Catholic, knocking off a former teammate and avenging two previous losses in the process.
The Sierra senior, making a fourth consecutive final-round appearance, defeated Manteca junior Ellie Kim, 6-2, 6-0. On Tuesday, she upset second-seeded Katie Kim 6-0, 7-6 in the semifinals after losing to the freshman phenom — and Ellie’s sister — twice in the regular season.
The finalists in both singles and doubles qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Individual Tournament on Nov. 7-8 at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville.
“I’m relieved I’m graduating; they are both really good players,” the ever-humble Rausa said of the Kim sisters. “I’m so glad just to go back to sections. What a way to end my senior year.”
Katie Kim did not come away from the tournament empty-handed, however. After placing third in singles, she paired with Sahiba Kaur to claim the doubles championship — the second for Kaur. Defending VOL singles champion and top-seeded Colleen Ballatore of Central Catholic retired for medical reasons in the semifinals Tuesday.
Rausa knows her title-round opponent well. Ellie Kim was at Sierra for a year before transferring to cross-town rival Manteca. In her lone season with Sierra, Kim helped the Timberwolves reach the SJS Division IV final and she advanced as far as the SJS Division II doubles semifinals with Nadia Petrovic.
Rausa previously met Kim in the league tournament last year, winning 6-3, 6-2 on her way to the final. The rematch on Thursday was more lopsided. While confident going in, based on past results, Rausa did not overlook her familiar foe.
“I’m both happy and sad,” Rausa said. “Competitively, I’m of course happy to win this, but sad that it came against a friend and someone I used to be teammates with. This victory was bittersweet.”
She faced both Kaur and the younger Kim on Tuesday. Katie Kim previously held off Rausa 6-4, 6-3 and 7-6(3), 6-0 in dual matches.
“The biggest change was me starting off really fast and being able to get that lead,” Rausa said.
Her goal now is to make it past the quarterfinals in the section individual tournament for the first time and help Sierra claim its first SJS team championship. The team tournaments for Divisions III and IV — four-time defending VOL champion Manteca looks to repeat in D-III while Sierra could drop to IV — begin Monday, Nov. 4.
Katie Kim and Kaur hope to make a splash at the section tourney after grinding past Central Catholic’s Anne Dunn and Katherine Juarez, 6-2, 7-5.
“I’m really excited for that,” Kim said. “It seems like a lot of fun and I think we’ll be able to make good progress. “I’m a singles player, I don’t really play doubles. It was a lot more of a challenge for me, but I was glad I was able to pull through and to win this with Sahiba.”
The Raiders tandem was up for the challenge in facing the tournament’s top-seeded team, leading 3-0 in the second set. The Manteca duo came back and later tied it at 5-5 after Kaur ended a rally with an overhead smash. Kaur and Kim was in control from there.
“Last time I got to do this with Julia Tang and that was amazing, and this time I get to do it with my other best friend Katie,” Kaur said. “I think we understand each other pretty well and we know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, so it was pretty easy. The only time we were challenged was when I wasn’t playing too well.”
Sierra’s Melanie Nguyen and Petrovic also made it to the doubles semifinals, but they lost their final two matches to place fourth. They dropped the third-place match 2-6, 4-6 to Jocellia Roberts and Isabella Khacho of Central Catholic.