The Kimball High boys tennis team goes into the second half of the Valley Oak League season locked in a tie for first place with Manteca High.
Kimball missed its best chance to take sole possession of first place Monday when the visiting Manteca team won the match 6-3, leaving both teams 6-1 in the VOL.
Kimball and Manteca split the six singles matches and Manteca won all three doubles matches.
Kimball sophomore Garrett Chun, the Jaguars’ No. 1 singles player, beat Manteca’s Yok-Jing Ma 6-1 in the first set but had a much tougher time to get the 6-4 win in the second set.
“He’s the toughest opponent in the league,” Chun said. “I was just trying to play good tennis and get my points when it counted.”
Also winning his match was senior Mark Dalupan, who beat Manteca’s Gino Mercado 6-0, 6-1. The rallies for each point intensified all the way to the end of the second set.
“He started getting more points at the end, but I adjusted,” Dalupan said.
Dalupan said he and his teammates knew that Monday’s match would require championship-level play.
“They’re our hardest competitor, so we always come out with our best squad. We have to play hard,” he said.
Monday’s loss was the first for the Jaguars this year, following a 2013 season in which the team won the VOL title after going 19-1, 14-0 in league. The 2013 Jaguars lost only to Bella Vista High of Fair Oaks, 6-3 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals in May.
Most of the players from that team are back, the main exception being senior Logan Staggs, who is focusing on United State Tennis Association play as he prepares to compete for NCAA Division I Northwestern University in Chicago next year.
Coach Danette McDaniel said the returning players had all improved as they took higher places on the team’s strength ladder, and new players keep improving as well.
“They came out with very little experience and have picked up,” she said.
She added that the top four players on Kimball’s strength ladder — Chun, Dalupan, junior Nick Reilley and sophomore Ivan Acosta — also play USTA, and she encourages new players to take advantage of the school’s partnership with In-Shape City on Tracy Boulevard.
“They have high school clinics that are open to all of the high schools,” McDaniel said. “The ones who get better are the ones who put in that extra time, beyond coming to practice here.”
Kimball’s other win Monday was in the No. 4 singles match as Acosta beat Spencer Jackson 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Manteca’s Mike Lopez beat Reilley 6-2, 6-1, Thomas Reza beat Kimball junior Blake Howerton 7-5, 7-5 and Alex Vasquez beat Kimball senior Arman Bhangu 6-3, 6-4.
In the doubles, Manteca’s Nolan Osborn and Yok-Eyh Ma beat sophomore Joshua Linsangan and Aaron Lee 6-1, 6-0; Edvin Pepic and Yayha Shabber beat sophomore Jack Li and junior Nick Nguyen 6-2, 6-0; and Kyle Thornburg and Si Hao Tang beat sophomores Burt Yu and Pranav Nampoothiri, whose scores were not available.
Kimball’s other matches in the past week include a 7-2 win at Oakdale High on Friday and a 7-2 win against East Union at home on April 3.
Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4227.