Tuesday was the first time in a long time that the San Marcos girls’ tennis team looked vulnerable following a loss to Santa Barbara, 10-8.
Winners of the Channel League for four straight seasons, the Royals were not used to losing, especially considering they had won 12 straight heading into their matchup against the Dons.
Thursday saw San Marcos travel to Dos Pueblos in hopes of attaining a bounce-back victory to keep pace with Santa Barbara.
The Chargers, however, were more than ready to showcase their talent this season, and stake their own claim for a chance at a title.
Led by six set wins in doubles, Dos Pueblos snuck out a 9-9 (84-75) win over San Marcos to improve to 3-1 while SM fell to 2-2.
DP’s only loss in league play this season has been to Santa Barbara, who improved to 4-0 after a win against Cabrillo on Thursday as well.
“It was awesome to get this win. It was a good battle. The league is so competitive and it is really fun. You go into any match putting your best effort forth and winning this match 9-9 shows how close it was and that next time we are going to have to work a bit harder and not take any points for granted,” DP’s Alessa Somer said.
All three of the Chargers doubles teams, Annie Field/Danya Belkin, Mia Chou/Neve Greenwald and Cami Chou/Cami Greenwald, went 2-1 on the day.
“I love the combinations of our teams. Their relationships have progressed so much and when you tell them something, they do it. They listen well. And they focus on pumping each other up,” Dos Pueblos coach Laura Housinger said.
For the second match in a row, however, the Royals’ Samantha Forster/Bella Munoz finised the day a perfect 3-0.
Singles was a much tighter contest throughout, highlighted by Somer and San Marcos’s Fiona Kinsella.
The two No. 1 singles players for their individual teams put on a show to start the match.
Kinsella held the upper hand early, taking a 4-1 lead and eventually holding set point at 5-2.
“I wasn’t playing aggressively at first. As the nerves went away and I settled in I started attacking more and finding my groove,” Somer said.
As she settled in, Somer began to really open up some space along the court with strong, cross-court shots that really tired out her opposition.
She soon tied the set at 5-5, but could not break Kinsella’s serve falling behind again.
This time, Somer hit great serves and won easily to force a tiebreak.
At 7-7, Somer was serving but faulted, giving Kinsella a chance to win the match.
“You can never give on any match. Even if you are down 5-0. At some point, I stopped caring about the score and focused on winning this point, then this point,” Somer said.
“You can’t let that (doubt) get to you. I have been there before and I let nerves get to me and you just can’t let that happen. You have to just not care what the score is.”
Despite Kinsella’s strong serve ability, Somer broke the senior twice, then held on her final serve to win the tiebreak 10-8.
Given the fact that the match ended with a tie at 9-9, Somer’s win turned out to be the most crucial.
Somer’s win gave DP a 4-2 lead after the first round of action.
Midway through the final round of action, the Chargers had a 9-5 lead, needing only one more set win to seal the match victory.
First, DP’s Julia McEachen was bested by Kinsella, who finished the day 2-1, 6-0.
Then, SM’s top doubles duo won their final match to keep pace.
Soon after, the Royals got a huge win from freshman Stella Crawford, who plays No. 3 singles, as she beat Kate Chloe in a tiebreak, 7-6 (9).
With both coaches refusing to count up the total games won before the final match was over, many spectators were anxious watching the final match between Somer and freshman Natasha Gill.
The two broke each other multiple times throughout the match, but none bigger than when Gill broke Somer when the girls were tied at 4-4.
Gill then held serve to win her match 6-4. She finished the day a perfect 3-0.
“I was honestly focused on my match and didn’t know it was that close. She played really well, but it came down to patience because we were playing long points,” Gill said.
With the match over, both coaches totaled up the scores and DP was the winner in total games. Despite it not being an outright win, Dos Pueblos is still happy with the overall result.
“You want to win clean, but it happens. Everyone was asking me throughout what the score was but I didn’t want to think about. For me, it isn’t real until the match is done. I wanted us to close out those matches to prove we earned this so next time I hope we can show it,” Housinger said.
Overall, it will also be interesting to see going forward how each team, Santa Babara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos, responds the next time it faces each other.
DP will travel to face Lompoc at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, while San Marcos will host Cabrillo at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.