Experience proved to be the difference in Friday’s first-place battle between Manteca and visiting Kimball, which came through in pressure-packed moments and escaped with a 6-3 victory over the defending Valley Oak League champion.
Kimball is loaded at the top of its ladder with three of the best players in the , including three-time defending champion Garret Chun, but the Buffaloes (5-1, 7-3 overall) fared well against them and had opportunities in the lower half of the lineup to come away triumphant.
“Going in we knew were going to have a tough time in No. 1, 2 and 3 singles, but realistically this match could have gone either way,” Manteca coach Frank Fontana said. “They had four guys playing second and third doubles with some experience, and I have four guys there who are just starting to play.
“They have three freshmen but they’ve played much longer than our guys. The fact that we were in a lot of these matches is a good sign.”
Manteca dropped three matches decided by third sets. Kimball clinched it at No. 3 doubles where Vinnie Mankikkavelu and Bert Yu nipped Joseph Poncini and Cameron Gonzales, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Poncini and Gonzales were up 5-4 in the final set.
Manteca’s No. 2 tandem of Rey Anaya and Kevin Lin lost to Shehzer Hassan and Omar Popal 3-6, 6-4, 3-6 but rallied in the end after trailing in the third set, 0-5.
Manteca also nearly clinched a point at No. 5 singles, but Lenard Gutierrez — ahead 5-4 in the third set — lost to hard-hitting Jonathan Loayza 1-6, 6-4, 5-7.
No. 4 Yok Eyh Ma came back to beat Kimball’s Sahil Thakur, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Matt Pabla won at No. 6 singles 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 over Josh Linsangan. The Buffaloes’ top doubles team of Dhillon Patel and Kurtis Ma held off Paolo Acosta and Chance Mizuno, 6-1, 6-4.
Chun dispatched Manteca freshman Solman Aniss 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 1 singles match. Kyle Thornburg lost to Logan Le 3-6, 4-6, and Si Hao Tang dropped a 3-6, 3-6 decision to Ivan Acosta.
“We play them again in about three weeks and I’m sure our guys will be ready,” Fontana said. “They still have to play Central Catholic with its full team, and Central Catholic gave us a tough match yesterday. Until then it’s something we can work for and hopefully we can move on from this.”
Central Catholic 5, Sierra 4
Sierra (1-5) played the third-place Raiders (4-3) tough at the Manteca Regional Tennis Center.
No. 3 and 4 players Jameson Smith (6-3, 6-2) and Mark Paule (1-6, 6-2, 7-6) contributed points from the singles ladder for the Timberwolves. Elijah Jacobsen and Mat Len won at No. 1 doubles 6-4, 6-4, and No. 3 Amalio Durazo and Charles Wichert prevailed 7-5, 6-2. Sierra had an opportunity to score the upset with its No 2. duo of Tyler Holmes and Rob Tavares, who lost to Jacob Schali and Joseph Rodriguez, 7-6, 4-6, 1-6.
Sierra also hung tough in its four singles losses. No. 1 Kyle Banks was dispatched by Conner Fenton 4-6, 3-6, while Jimmy Galindo took John Dunn to a third set before falling, 3-6, 6-2, 3-6.