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Foothill girls tennis: Gritty victory

Rivalry renews as West Ranch beats Valencia

Posted: September 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Julia Lynch returns a shot on Thursday at Valencia High School. Lynch won a set for the Wildcats, who prevailed against the Vikings on games.

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It seems as though it doesn’t matter what year it is — West Ranch and Valencia girls tennis matches keep coming down to the wire.

At Valencia High School on Thursday, the strong play of Ana Cecilia Fuentes helped the Wildcats defeat the Vikings 78-77 on games after the match ended in a 9-9 tie.

The match solidified West Ranch’s position as the team to beat in Foothill League play, but the Vikings also sent a message. Despite returning only two starters from last year’s squad, they’ll still challenge the Wildcats for the league title.

Valencia No. 1 singles player Brigitta Benitez turned in two strong performances to start the match, defeating Anne DeGiorgio 6-1 and Julia Lynch 6-2.

Vikings No. 2 singles player Sabrina Wueste matched the feat, defeating DeGiorgio 6-3 and Lynch 6-2.

Early on though, the singles set of the match came when Lynch, playing as the Wildcats’ No. 3 singles player, defeated Valencia’s No. 3 singles player Staci Lowe 7-6 (7-4).

After two rounds, the Wildcats (6-0, 1-0) and Vikings found themselves tied at six sets apiece, with Valencia (2-5, 0-1) ahead by just two games. Fuentes, playing as West Ranch’s No. 2 singles player in the match, was preparing to play Benitez.

“(As a leader) I couldn’t show the pressure,” Fuentes said. “I just told the girls, we’re going to try hard and we’re going to win it.”

And in that final set, Fuentes didn’t wilt, taking a 5-0 lead against Benitez before closing out the set 6-1.

Despite the win, the outcome of the match wasn’t certain, as DeGiorgio was locked in a match with Lowe and Lynch was battling it out with Wueste. The Wildcats were ahead 9-7 after the doubles teams completed play.

Lowe pulled out a 6-4 victory and Wueste turned in a 6-3 win to tie up the match at nine sets each.

Those seven total games won by DeGiorgio and Lynch, though, proved to be the difference.

But even though West Ranch’s supporting cast clinched the victory, West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker said the story of the match was Fuentes’ three wins.

“You have to start with 6-0, 6-0, 6-1,” Spiecker said. “That’s the line you have to point to.”

The doubles matches were just as even between the two league rivals, as West Ranch won five of the doubles sets to Valencia’s four.

West Ranch No. 1 doubles tandem Lena Poonnopatam and Gabrielle Morici swept its three sets 6-2, 6-4 and 6-1, while the Valencia No. 2 doubles team of Michelle Savage and Shenelle Trujillo won two matches on the day 6-1 and 6-2.

Valencia’s No. 3 doubles team of Ashley Keith and Tina Inchalik added an important victory of its own, defeating the Wildcats’ No. 3 team of Hana El Arabi and Sarah Andrews 7-6 (3-0). But it wasn’t enough to pull out the match win.

Despite the loss, the Vikings came away with reason for confidence as they move forward in league play.

“Everyone thought we would be down,” Benitez said. “We did well … I’m very proud of my team and we worked really hard.”

It’s clear after Thursday’s action that Valencia has the talent to compete for the league title once again. But for now, the Wildcats have put themselves in the driver’s seat.

“On our website, the motto says ‘every point, every set, every game …,’” Spiecker said. “It was gritty, but it wasn’t pretty.”

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