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It won't be easy for the Vikings

Posted: March 19, 2008 2:53 a.m.
Updated: May 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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With Valencia boys tennis having already clinched a win in the Foothill League opener against West Ranch Tuesday, both teams lined up along the final court on the West Ranch campus for the final set.

They stood to watch a seesaw battle between the Wildcats doubles team of Jason Oh and Patrick Fuentes and Valencia's Alex Pick and Matt Cheng.

West Ranch won the battle, but Valencia ultimately won the match 11-7. But there was a large significance to both teams having watched that final set - shoulder to shoulder.

Valencia (12-1, 1-0), having won two consecutive Foothill League crowns and five since 2002, witnessed what could be its greatest competition for another title make a statement.

"I think it sends a message that we can compete, " said first-year West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker. "If we win a couple of singles matches (next time), we can compete at Valencia."

West Ranch (1-1-2, 0-1) came extremely close to winning a majority of the doubles matches.

The Wildcats No. 1 team of Kevin Harmon and Jeremy Ramirez swept 6-3, 6-1 and 7-5.

"We surprised ourselves," Ramirez said.

They weren't the only ones surprised.

"Yeah, actually I was," said Valencia No. 1 singles player Jack Zapala. "I saw how singles were doing (well) and I came over to coach (and saw the score). It sort of scared me."

It was the play of the Valencia singles group that was the difference.

Zapala swept 6-0, 6-1 and 6-0.

The Vikings received six wins from the singles side, with a pair coming from Tyler Gottshall, 6-0, 6-0.

But even the play of the West Ranch singles was encouraging Tuesday.

Spiecker took note of his No. 1 singles player, junior Jordan Hovis.

Hovis lost 6-1 to Zapala, then took the court against Gottshall.

The Wildcat disposed of Gottshall 6-4, a vast difference from one particular match last year.

"To lose that match, turn around and beat Goths," Spiecker began.

"Last year, Jordan lost to Jack in a tiebreak then came back and got smeared by Tyler. It shows his mental toughness."

The intensity of the last match of the day was striking, though, because of what it meant.

West Ranch's mantra this year is every point, every set, every match, so despite the loss already in hand, it carried meaning going into the future.

Valencia had a similar mentality.

"You don't want a match to come out close because next time, they think they're there," said Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg.

Maybe the damage was already done.

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